TAMPA — Little more than a week after saying he was preparing to run for mayor, Jim Davis decided he will not be on the ballot this spring.
"About 3 o'clock this morning, I came to the conclusion I could not give to this job what it's going to take. Our next mayor has to give 150 percent. I can only give about 110 percent," Davis said Thursday.
He said he found plenty of support and encouragement while exploring his candidacy, but ultimately determined the time isn't right for him and his family.
Davis was a principal in the nonprofit group that promoted a failed 1-cent sales tax in Hillsborough County for transportation improvements, including light rail.
"I have a great job, which allows me to work on great causes like transit, and there will be others," said Davis, a former U.S. representative who is a lawyer with Holland & Knight.
So far, candidates for mayor in the March 1 election are former Hillsborough County Commissioners Rose Ferlita and Ed Turanchik, former City Council member Bob Buckhorn, City Council Chairman Tom Scott, former police Capt. Marion Lewis and businessman Arthur Richardson.
Davis' decision not to run no doubt is a big relief for them. He has strong name recognition, cultivated as a U.S. representative and Democratic candidate for governor.
And he had the backing of popular outgoing Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio, who can't run again due to a term limit.
"I am disappointed because I know what a quality person he is," Iorio said of Davis. "I know he would have been an excellent candidate and mayor. But it's a very personal decision about whether to seek this office because being mayor is really all-consuming."
Iorio said she won't endorse any of the remaining candidates.
"I wish them all well. Whoever emerges as the winner, I promise a very positive transition," she said.
The news about Davis is particularly good for former Mayor Dick Greco, who has said he is likely to pursue another term as Tampa's chief executive officer.
Without Davis in the race, Greco has a clear advantage in name recognition. Tampa voters have elected him as mayor four times, most recently in 1999 when he ran with no opposition.
Greco said Davis was never a factor in his consideration of a mayoral run.
"It's not an influence one way or another who's in the race, unless I think it's someone who could do a better job than me," he said.
Greco, who publicly contemplated running for mayor in 2007 but opted not to, said he sympathized with Davis' struggle with the decision and was struck by his tale that he came to a conclusion in the middle of the night.
"If you're interested in what you're doing, it kind of consumes you. I've done a great deal of thinking, too," Greco said. "Jim is a real nice young man. I've known him all of his life. He's not finished politically. He's just waiting awhile."
Davis' exit from the contest also bodes well for Buckhorn, who would have competed with Davis for Democratic votes in the left-leaning city.
Even though Tampa elections are nonpartisan, candidates' political leanings are often clear. Also, Davis ran as a Democrat for Congress and governor, and Buckhorn made a failed bid for a county commission seat as a Democrat.
"He clearly would have been a worthy adversary had he chosen to do it," Buckhorn said.
Scott is one candidate likely to suffer without Davis in the contest. Had he decided to run, Davis would have caused a further divide among active South Tampa voters, whose loyalties for now are likely to be divided among Ferlita, Buckhorn and Turanchik.
"Given all the names out there, this probably will be one of the strongest mayor's races we've had in years," Scott said.
Janet Zink can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 226-3401.