Jim Davis (Florida politician)

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Jim Davis
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Florida's 11th district
In office
January 3, 1997 – January 3, 2007
Preceded by Sam Gibbons
Succeeded by Kathy Castor
Personal details
Born James Oscar Davis III
(1957-10-11) October 11, 1957 (age 63)
Tampa, Florida, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Peggy Bessent
Alma mater Washington and Lee University
University of Florida
Religion Episcopalianism

James Oscar "Jim" Davis III (born October 11, 1957) is an American politician from the U.S. state of Florida. He is a Democrat and served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1997 to 2007, representing Florida's 11th congressional district. He was the Democratic nominee for governor of Florida in the 2006 election, but was defeated by Republican Charlie Crist.

Early life and education

Davis was born in Tampa, Florida. He graduated from Jesuit High School of Tampa in 1975, and attended Washington and Lee University, where he received his Bachelor of Arts degree in 1979. He later attended the University of Florida's College of Law, received his Juris Doctor law degree in 1982. He later credited his grandfather as an important influence on his life.


Davis worked as a lawyer in private practice from 1982 to 1988, when he became a partner in the Tampa-based business law firm of Bush, Ross, Gardner, Warren & Rudy. Davis was elected to the Florida House of Representatives in 1989 and served until 1996, serving as House Majority Leader from 1995 to 1996.

US House

Davis entered the race for the Tampa-based 11th District in 1996, after Sam Gibbons—the district's only congressman since its creation in 1963—announced his retirement. Although Gibbons had endorsed Davis as his successor, Davis finished second in a four-way Democratic primary behind former Tampa mayor Sandy Freedman. He won the runoff with 56 percent of the vote.

He faced Republican Mark Sharpe in the general election. The race was initially thought to be close, especially since Sharpe had nearly defeated Gibbons in 1994 and held him to 52 percent in 1992. However, Davis won by a convincing 15-point margin, largely due to Bill Clinton carrying the district. After defeating an underfunded Republican in 1998, Davis faced only a Libertarian candidate in 2000 and 2004 and was completely unopposed in 2002.

Davis was one of the co-chairs of the New Democrat Coalition in the House of Representatives. The New Democrat Coalition is affiliated with the centrist Democratic Leadership Council.

On October 10, 2002, Jim Davis was among the 81 House Democrats who voted in favor of authorizing the invasion of Iraq.

2006 Gubernatorial Campaign

Davis announced his candidacy for governor of Florida in 2005 and won the Democratic primary held on September 5, 2006. He defeated then-state Senator Rod Smith by a margin of 46 percent to 42 percent.

He received the endorsements of former U.S. President Bill Clinton, U.S. senator for Florida Bill Nelson, U.S. senator for Illinois Barack Obama, former Governor and U.S. Senator Bob Graham, former Governor Buddy MacKay, former First Lady Rhea Chiles (wife of Lawton Chiles), former Tallahassee mayor and Florida Democratic Party chairman Scott Maddox, Miami-Dade Democratic Party chairman Jimmy Morales, and Representatives Alcee Hastings, Robert Wexler, Corrine Brown, and Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

He lost the race to Attorney General Charlie Crist by a margin of 52-45.


As of 2007, Davis is employed at Holland & Knight in Tampa. In 2010, Davis has been a member of and public speaker for Moving Hillsborough Forward, an organization formed to help pass a transit tax referendum on the 2010 general election ballot in Hillsborough County.

In 2010, Davis was a member of and public speaker for Moving Hillsborough Forward, an organization formed to help pass a transit tax referendum on the general election ballot in Hillsborough County.[1] Though there was some speculation that he might potentially run for Mayor of Tampa in 2011,[2] he ultimately declined to run. Though then-Mayor Pam Iorio declared that Davis would be an "excellent" successor,[3] it was speculated that the defeat of the rail referendum by voters left Davis with no platform to run for Mayor on.[4]

Election results

Florida's 11th congressional district: Results 1996–2006[5]
Year Democrat Votes Pct Republican Votes Pct 3rd Party Party Votes Pct
1996 Jim Davis 108,522 57.9% Mark Sharpe 78,881 42.1%
1998 Jim Davis 85,262 64.9% Joe Chillura 46,176 35.1%
2000 Jim Davis 149,433 84.6% (no candidate) Charlie Westlake Libertarian 27,194 15.4%
2002 Jim Davis Unopposed 100% (no candidate)
2004 Jim Davis 191,780 85.8% (no candidate) Robert Edward Johnson Libertarian 31,579 14.1%
Florida gubernatorial election, 2006[6]
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Republican Charlie Crist 2,519,845 52.2 -3.8
Democratic Jim Davis 2,178,289 45.1 +1.9
Reform Max Linn 92,595 1.9 n/a
Independent John Wayne Smith 15,987 0.3 n/a
Independent Richard Paul Dembinsky 11,921 0.2 n/a
Independent Karl Behm 10,487 0.2 n/a
Write-ins 147 0.0 0
Majority 341,556 7.1 -5.7
Turnout 4,829,271
Republican hold Swing

Personal life

Davis's wife is Peggy Bessent Davis. The couple have two children, Peter and William. He is a member of the Episcopal Church.


  1. Robert Napper, "Powerful Tampa Bay Interests Campaign for Local Light Rail Funding," Moving Hillsborough Forward, under "News & Media," August 2, 2010, http://www.movinghillsboroughforward.org/news-media/powerful-tampa-bay-interests-campaign-for-local-light-rail-funding.aspx
  2. Mike Deeson, "Tampa Mayor Race Gets Hotter: Bob Buckhorn is Running," WTSP 10 News, June 2010, http://www.wtsp.com/news/local/story.aspx?storyid=131766
  3. William March, "Iorio Suggests Davis Would Be 'Excellent' Successor," Tampa Tribune, November 2007, http://www2.tbo.com/content/2007/nov/16/me-iorio-suggests-davis-would-be-excellent-success/news-politics/
  4. Peter Schorsch, "With rail referendum’s defeat, Jim Davis not likely to run, so Tampa mayoral field will be set with Greco’s announcement," Saint Petersblog, November 2010, http://saintpetersblog.com/2010/11/05/with-rail-referendums-defeat-jim-davis-not-likely-to-run-so-tampa-mayoral-field-will-be-set-with-grecos-announcement/
  5. "Election Statistics". Office of the Clerk of the House of Representatives. Retrieved 2011-03-25.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. https://doe.dos.state.fl.us/elections/resultsarchive/Index.asp?ElectionDate=11/7/2006&DATAMODE=

External links

United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Sam Gibbons
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Florida's 11th congressional district

Succeeded by
Kathy Castor
Party political offices
Preceded by
Bill McBride
Republican nominee for Governor of Florida
Succeeded by
Alex Sink