Davis expected to pick Jones as running mate
Jim Davis’ search for a lieutenant governor running mate appears to have settled on former state Sen. Daryl Jones of Miami.
Davis, who last week defeated Rod Smith for the Democratic nomination, wrangled over the decision Wednesday, the day before he was legally required to select an LG. Most signs pointed to three finalists - all from South Florida - including state Reps. Dan Gelber, the incoming House minority leader, and Chris Smith, who currently holds that post.
But a source close to the vetting process told the St. Petersburg Times late Wednesday that, “It’s Daryl Jones.”
The 51-year-old Jones would be Florida's first African-American lieutenant governor. Smith would have also held that distinction.
Davis, who turns 49 next month, will make his selection official during a 9:30 a.m. stop at a library in Fort Lauderdale. Then he and Jones will embark on a two-day tour across the state, culminating in Miami on Friday evening with an appearance by former (and expected future) presidential candidate John Edwards.
A former fighter pilot, Jones was nominated by President Bill Clinton to be Air Force secretary but failed to win confirmation in the Senate amid a series of allegations about his record and whether he gave truthful responses.
Jones, himself a candidate for governor four years ago, has long history in the Legislature, including a decade as a senator from south Miami-Dade County. He has three children and holds a law degree from the University of Miami.
“He’s a quality guy,” Gelber said prior to Davis’ selection. Reached late Wednesday, Gelber said he would respect the campaign’s wishes that he not discuss who got the nod. "I'm on double secret probation," he said.
Indeed, the Davis campaign maintained a tight grip on the process, just as Republican nominee Charlie Crist did. Jones and the other finalists were not notified until late Wednesday. A Davis spokesman, however, promised to release the name by 6:30 or 7 this morning to accommodate The Buzz and other blogs.
Having Jones at his side could aid Davis in South Florida, an area flush with Democratic voters, and among African-Americans, some of whom were turned off by Davis’ 1990 vote against compensating two black men wrongfully convicted of murder. Davis apologized to the men Tuesday, saying he viewed the case too much like a lawyer.
While a state senator, Jones was a sponsor of the bill that provided $2-million to the survivors of the massacre at Rosewood, a black town destroyed by a white mob in the 1920s.
Jones could benefit Davis in another way, by bringing in some of Rod Smith's supporters who may have lingering feelings after a tough primary. Jones backed Smith in the primary and was considered a possible LG candidate in that camp.
Jones could not be reached Wednesday night. Smith, who most openly sought the position, anxiously awaited news at his Fort Lauderdale home. But he too could not be reached after 10 p.m.
Crist on Wednesday chose as his lieutenant governor running mate Rep. Jeff Kottkamp of Cape Coral, a trial lawyer with deep roots in conservative southwest Florida. Read that story here.
-- Alex Leary and Steve Bousquet.