I want to highlight the absolute trouncing given by Ron Sparks in the Alabama Governor’s race to Artur Davis, an African-American candidate who thought it would be a good idea to try and run the general election in the primary, amassing the voting record of a Dixiecrat and ignoring the black political leadership in the state. It was an audacious effort, and one that might have worked if Davis bore any resemblance to a Democrat in the months leading up to the Democratic primary.
Jess Brown, a professor of politics and government at Athens State University, says that if Davis had run a traditional Democratic campaign – playing to the base – that he would have easily won.
“He chose instead,” said Brown, “to try to position himself to pull in more independent votes in the general election.”
This, said Brown, explains why Davis went against the president on health care and against the traditional black leadership in Alabama, including the New South Coalition and the Alabama Democratic Conference (ADC) and its leader, Joe Reed.
Those coalitions were out in force in Athens, said Brown, passing out flyers asking voters to support Sparks [...]
Asked who she supported for governor, Lillie Brown, who is black, said “not Artur Davis.”
As she passed out an ADC flyer, she said, “I didn’t like that he voted no on the health care bill.”
Maybe some will attribute this to a Bradley effect (though African-Americans went only 60-40 for Davis); maybe it was Sparks’ somewhat negative campaign and position in the state political establishment. But more likely, Davis took the baffling position of voting against a health care bill with a public option, the first time around in the House, and then voting against it again on the final vote. He clearly took positions – and not just on health care – completely at odds with his Democratic base in his district and in the state, and even in Alabama, he discovered, that mattered. I don’t know when Democrats will realize before they get smacked in an election that they don’t interest voters by running as Republican-lite.
Meanwhile, this will be a good test of the Obama Administration’s commitment to their own rhetoric. During the health care fight, the President’s advisors said very clearly that they wouldn’t offer much help to anyone who voted against their signature achievement. Does that extend to Davis, who went to Harvard Law like Obama and whose name was floated as a potential Attorney General nominee? Will they have Davis land on his feet after all that adamant talk about challenging those Democrats who didn’t come aboard on health care? We’ll see.
Meanwhile, Parker Griffith, the Democrat-turned-Republican in AL-05, became the latest incumbent to lose his primary, getting smoked by Mo Brooks, 51-33. Steve Raby, an aide to former Democratic Sen. Howell Heflin, will face Brooks in the general election. You can thumb through the results of last night’s key primary races in Mississippi, New Mexico and Alabama at TPM.