TAMPA – As Jim Davis walked onto a stage populated by his political allies and family Tuesday to concede the gubernatorial race to opponent Charlie Crist, he could barely be heard over the chants of “We want Jim” and cheers of his supporters.
“You know, tonight we came close to pulling off a political miracle. There was more money spent against me than any other campaign in the history of Florida,” Davis said.
The mood was upbeat all night in the Audubon 2 banquet hall of the Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay. A small group of students was present to voice their support for a candidate that shares their views.
“Throughout the campaign, education has been highlighted,” political science senior Danielle Richards said. “Charlie Crist uses the FCAT, and Jim Davis wants to change that. I think we clearly need change, and Jim Davis is the change we need.”
Kristina Saunders, spokeswoman for Davis’ campaign, portrayed her candidate as sensitive to the needs of students, as well.
“Students that are graduating are going to be looking for jobs,” she said. “They are going to be looking for a place to live that is affordable, and property taxes have been a huge issue; Jim Davis wants to lower them by $1 million.”
George Dramko, a Davis campaigner who made phone calls and placed signs, said, “I’m very optimistic. It’s a very close race, and (Bill) Nelson already won.”
Bursts of applause greeted every announcement of positive numbers for Democratic candidates.
As the night wore on, however, the optimism became guarded as numbers reflected an increasing lead for Crist. Even as the Associated Press called the election for Crist at around 10 p.m., the Davis campaign remained resolute.
Citing numbers produced by the Florida Secretary of State, Davis campaign Communication Director Josh Earnest called the race close.
According to Earnest, at 10:15 p.m the numbers reported by the AP failed to include 220,000 votes, 200,000 of which were for Davis.
“Pour a cup of coffee, because it’s going to be a long night,” he said.
Ultimately, however, Davis conceded to Crist via phone at 11 p.m.
“We came very close, and the fight will continue,” Davis said.