Former Democratic Rep. Artur Davis talks party-switching
Former Democratic congressman Artur Davis, who has been a thorn in the side of Democrats in the aftermath of his loss in the 2010 Alabama gubernatorial primary, is a man without a political party.
In an interview with The Fix, Davis openly speculated about running for office as an independent or even a Republican. In both cases, he suggested his decision not to make the switch has as much to do with the difficulties involved as any desire he has to remain a Democrat.
“I’ve heard some people at the national level encouraging me to run as an independent for my old office,” Davis said, referring to the congressional seat he left to run for governor. But he said his home state makes it more difficult than almost any other state to run as an independent. “Alabama is not friendly to independent candidacies.”
Davis also suggested running as a Republican might be a viable option, but said that the Alabama Republican Party has declined to embrace politicians who have switched parties. He noted that party-switching former congressman Parker Griffith was defeated in a GOP primary last year after leaving the Democratic Party. A series of Democrats in lower offices, including the state legislature, have made the same switch, with mixed results.
“While there have been Democrats who have switched down there, the Republican Party has refused to accept them,” Davis said. “Do I agree with the agenda items in the Alabama Republican Party? Some I agree with, and some I don’t. [The state GOP-drafted] immigration law is not something I would have written.”
Davis said he doesn’t identify with a political party in his current role as an increasingly vocal pundit. He caused a splash recently by speaking out in favor of a voter ID law. Given that the Democratic Party regards such laws as an attempt to disenfranchise black voters, having an African-American former Democratic congressman espouse that view wasn’t exactly helpful to the party’s cause.
This week, he wrote a piece for the conservative National Review Online suggesting Sen. Ben Nelson’s (D-Neb.) retirement was due to “an exclusively liberal” Democratic Party.
Davis’s criticism of his party ramped up in the 2010 primary, when he carved out a more moderate persona. He wound up losing badly to the state’s agriculture commissioner, Ron Sparks, by 25 points. Sparks went on to defeat in the general election, and bad blood lingers between the two.
Davis has also recently contributed money to the campaigns of two Republicans, former congresswoman Heather Wilson, who is running for Senate in New Mexico, and Mississippi Gov.-elect Phil Bryant.
Davis notes that he hasn’t had to register with a political party in either state he has lived recently — Alabama or Virginia. And he said he doesn’t need to officially make the switch unless he returns to elective politics.
After his 2010 loss, he suggested he was done with elective politics, but he doesn’t sound like he’s ready to close that door completely.
But it won’t happen in 2012; Davis said he will be a visiting fellow at the Harvard Institute of Politics this coming semester.
“The only way I would have to cross that threshold is if I decided to run for office,” he said. “My recognition after losing the governor’s race was I closed a bunch of doors that weren’t likely to be re-opened.”