The man who was supposed to be Alabama’s first black governor, but lost his Democratic primary Tuesday by eschewing the black political establishment to appeal to a larger electorate, says he’ll never again run for office.
“I have no interest in running for political office again,” Rep. Artur Davis, a Democrat, told the Birmingham News. “The voters spoke in a very decisive way across every sector and in every section of the state. A candidate that fails across-the-board like that obviously needs to find something else productive to do with his life.”
Davis suffered a devastating defeat to Agricultural Commissioner Ron Sparks, who had the backing of the state’s traditional black political leadership. In running for governor, Davis did not run for re-election to Congress and will leave office after this year.
Though polls up until Tuesday’s contest showed a close race between the two, Davis only took in 38 percent of the vote Sparks’s 62 percent, which political observers in Alabama say must have shocked both candidates.
Political chatter in Alabama since Tuesday has, among other topics, centered on how Davis lost so badly. “Obviously there are a number of possibilities here,” said David Lanoue, the chairman of the political science department at the University of Alabama.
As for Davis’s biggest mistake during the campaign? “I think it was the way he avoided the endorsements of the major black groups.”
Davis outraged the groups by voting against Obama’s health-care bill (causing Jesse Jackson to suggest he wasn’t voting like a black politician should). By keeping his distance, Davis likely thought he would be more competitive in the general.
And he must have thought he’d cruise through the Democratic nomination at first. Sparks, his opponent, was seen as a weak candidate, who at one point even contemplated leaving the race to run for Congress. But he eventually consolidated the support of the black groups that shunned Davis, taking the black vote with him.
What’s telling to him, Lanoue said, is how he often heard the word “disrespect” from black voters when asked about Davis avoiding some of the black political establishment.
“Davis essentially blew off major African-American organizations publicly,” he said.
Just because Davis says his name won’t reappear on a ballot doesn’t mean he’s done with politics altogether. Davis, a law school friend of President Obama, has long been rumored as some sort of White House appointee. Observers say he could end up back in private practice. Spokesman Alex Goepfert did not return a request for comment asking for details on Davis’s future plans.
Lanoue doesn’t think Davis will go away: “We haven’t heard the last from Artur Davis.”