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Hartselle Enquirer

The Artur Davis conundrum

Bob Martin
The Alabama Scene

Congressman Artur Davis, seeking the almost impossible…a black person becoming governor of Alabama, has faced the great divide and chosen to abandon the powerful black political groups to seek the African American vote not affiliated with those forces and the white voters he can convince to vote for him in the state’s Democratic Primary.

Davis has said to black groups in the state he doesn’t need their permission to run. “The day has ended when these groups decided who wins the support of black voters in this state,” he said. The groups see it as a snub, though, and some black political leaders believe it could be a game changer in a Democratic primary where about 40-45 percent of the voters are traditionally African American.

The screening processes started Saturday with Sanders’ group endorsing Ag Commissioner Ron Sparks. Sanders said Davis was in the running until he said he wouldn’t attend the New South caucus. In fact New South leaders said Davis had been the front-runner for their endorsement until he became the only member of the Congressional Black Caucus to vote against the national health care plan.

William Stewart, former chairman of the political science department at the University of Alabama, said the endorsement gives Sparks legitimacy with African-American voters, who heavily influence the outcome of the Democratic primary.

Sparks, a supporter of the federal health care plan, spoke to the coalition last Saturday morning and criticized Davis for not participating. He said that as agriculture commissioner he has spoken to environmental groups and other groups that don’t share his views, but he feels communication is important.

Frankly I don’t know what the Davis campaign is thinking by abandoning at least 10-15 percent or more of the black vote and thinking they can pick up a like number of white votes, particularly when Sparks has been one of the biggest Democratic vote-getters in the past two elections. I have said before and I will repeat it here that Sparks is “just country enough to win a sizeable number of the white vote in Alabama”

Davis, polling firm part ways

That must have been what the folks at Montgomery-based Anzalone Lizst, one of the top Democratic polling firms in the nation, were thinking when they parted ways with Davis a month ago.

One source has been quoted as saying there were differences over the strategic direction of the race, “specifically over Davis’ ‘reformer, clean-up state government’ message and over how aggressively to challenge Ron Sparks.”

The source, quoted on the Political Parlor website, adds that the parting was amicable, and there were no differences over polling or numbers. Anzalone has not polled for Davis since January.

The firm says they continue to support Davis and will continue to root for him from the sidelines, but that it would be best for his campaign to get a fresh perspective.

There are those close to the campaign who tell me that in dealing with Davis, “it is his way or the highway” and this could be what the folks at Anzalone Lizst discovered and one of the issues that drove them away from the campaign.

Ethics complaint filed against Riley

A former state Republican Party leader has filed a complaint with the State Ethics Commission accusing Gov. Bob Riley of using his office to over $8 million in state contracts to a law firm where his son-in-law is a partner.

Bradley Unruh of Warrior, a former member of the state Republican Party’s steering committee and once head of the state’s Young Republicans, filed the complaint last week. It involved Birmingham attorney Rob Campbell, who is a partner in the Bradley Arant law firm and is married to Riley’s daughter, Minda.

Riley’s communications director, Jeff Emerson, said Campbell is on salary and does not profit from the law firm’s state business. The Bradley Arant firm’s state legal work includes helping the governor’s task force that is trying to close electronic bingo casinos.

Bob Martin is editor and publisher of The Montgomery Independent. Email him at: bob@montgomeryindependent.com