Jim Davis was elected to the Florida House in 1988 and re-elected three more times. He finished second in the 1996 Democratic congressional primary but qualified for a runoff by 274 votes over the third-place finisher in a four-way race. Former Tampa Mayor Sandy Freedman finished first with 35 percent to Davis' 25 percent, but Davis won the runoff 56-44 percent over Freedman.
In the general election, Davis beat Republican Mark Sharpe with 58 percent of the vote. Davis was re-elected in 1998, defeating Republican Joe Chillura with 65 percent of the vote. He defeated Libertarian Charlie Westlake to win re-election in 2000 with 85 percent of the vote.
Davis was unopposed in 2002.