Davis, Reed ot odds
U.S. Rep. Artur Davis is trying to become Alabama’s first African-American governor. Joe Reed is chairman of the state Democratic Party’s black wing. They are in the same party, but not on the same page.
Davis voted against health care reform legislation that was passed by the House on Nov. 7. He was one of only 39 Democrats – and the only member of the Congressional Black Caucus – to do so.
Davis said he voted against health care reform because he feared it would cause employers in Alabama to lay off workers or stop offering health insurance. The vote earned Davis a tongue-lashing from Reed, who accused him of trying to boost his chances in the governor’s race instead of serving the needs of people in his district.
Davis fired back this week, accusing Reed of believing “that a public official’s race matters more than his capacity for independent judgment” and condemning the attitude that there is a “uniquely `black’ way of understanding an issue.”
Reed countered by saying that his efforts helped create the majority African-American district that Davis has served since 2002, and pointing out “I was doing this when Congressman Davis was making mud cakes under the shade tree.”
Davis and Reed have been at odds before. Davis backed Barack Obama in last year’s presidential election, while Reed supported Hillary Clinton.
There probably also is a generational disconnect between the two. Reed is 72 and has been a Democratic activist in this state for decades. Davis is 42 and a relative newcomer.
Davis’ voting record in Congress has been reliably liberal. Americans for Democratic Action, a liberal group, gave him an 85 percent rating for 2008. The American Conservative Union gave him a 4 score for 2008 and his career ACU rating is 24.
However, Davis is campaigning for governor as a moderate and has tried to appeal to a broad range of voters. Given that there are nearly three times as many whites as blacks in Alabama, that is wise political strategy and also would give Davis the best chance of governing effectively if he were to be elected.
Still, some analysts wonder if what actually has Reed and others worried is a sense that even if Davis defeats opponent Ron Sparks in the primary and advances to the general election, Alabama still is not ready to elect a black governor, and a Davis primary victory would ensure a Republican in the governor’s office in 2011.
It may or may not, and Alabama may or may not be ready to elect a black governor. Much campaigning remains to be done before those questions are answered.
We think Reed is free to oppose Davis and work against his nomination if he so chooses. We believe Davis has the right to defend himself if he believes he has been wronged or treated unfairly. We believe Davis has the right to vote his convictions on issues without being expected to fit a template.
We also believe racial insinuations and rhetoric will soil what is shaping up as an exciting, interesting and historic campaign, and hope the participants will avoid that road.
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