Will Artur Davis' Retirement From Congress-- In Pursuit Of The Alabama Governorship-- Lead To More Progressive Representation For The 7th CD?
yeah, yeah... better than a Republican (yawn)
One of the ways progressives are seeking to improve the quality of Congress is to help candidates with proven records that favor working families win seats currently held by conservatives and by corrupt incumbents who do the bidding of wealthy campaign contributors. It's a multifaceted strategy that starts with the obvious: beating Republicans (who are all both conservative and beholden to corporate interests. It gets a bit more dicey when you start considering primaries against conservative or corrupt Democrats because then there is always the danger that the seat could fall to an even worse Republican. Parker Griffith (Blue Dog-AL) has the absolute worst and most reactionary voting record of any Democrat in the House. There are actually a few Republicans who have been voting more progressively than he has! And his abysmal ProgressivePunch score for this year (19.57) is identical with that of Mike Castle (R-DE), who Democrats are busy berating today after his announcement that he's running for Joe Biden's old Senate seat. But were a progressive-- or even an actual moderate-- to beat the reactionary Griffith in a Democratic primary, there's a chance that an even worse Republican would wind up in the seat. Blue Dogs often use that tactic to scare off support for real Democrats.
However, there's a completely different scenario playing out in AL-07, the most Democratic district in the state (PVI is D +18). Last year, while McCain was racking up a big win statewide (61-39%), Obama was racking up an even bigger landslide in the 7th CD, where McCain only managed to get 25.8% of the vote (coincidentally almost the same percentage-- 25.9-- of whites living in the district). The district is the poorest in the state with a median income of $26,672 (compared to the already awful statewide income of $34,135). Artur Davis has always been a moderate Democrat, not a reactionary like Blue Dogs Bobby Bright or Parker Griffith. His lifetime ProgressivePunch score is 71.09, making him the 165th most progressive member of the House, not close to being a progressive, but not close to being a conservative either. Like I said, he's a moderate-- or at least he was until he decided to run for governor. This year, his score dropped into Republican territory and suddenly he's voting more frequently with the GOP than with the Democrats on crucial issues. His Progressive Punch score plummeted from 71.09 to 28.06! This year he isn't the 165th most progressive; he's tied with outrageous reactionary Blue Dogs Walt Minnick, Frank Kratovil and Joe Donnelly as the 241 most progressive.
November 2010 offers a chance to get rid of this opportunist who's far more concerned with his own career trajectory than with the well being of his hard-pressed constituents in Birmingham, Tuscaloosa and the Black-belt counties of western Alabama. So far there are at least half a dozen Democrats in the mix and a Democratic primary win in AL-07 is tantamount to a long congressional career. The last time the Republicans even bothered to run someone (an unmarried white mobile home inspector, Steve Cameron in 2004), he barely managed to round up 25% of the vote. But how do you sort through half a dozen candidates, none with much of a national name? There's only one place to go: Alabama's most conscientious and thorough blog, LeftInAlbama. The phenomenally well-infomred Mooncat gave me a hand in navigating the candidates and even let me know that a brand new candidate jumped into the race yesterday-- Patricia Evans Mokolo, a Tuscaloosa housewife and former Obama volunteer, who's never held-- or even run for-- public office before.
The better known candidates are state Rep. Earl Hilliard Jr., Jefferson County Commissioner Sheila Smoot, Birmingham activist Terri Sewell, former Selma Mayor James Perkins, Artur Davis campaign manager Martha Bozeman, and Tuscaloosa businessman Eddison Walters. A political friend of mine in Alabama said he's most impressed with Terri Sewell and he thinks she's the most progressive of the candidates. Her family has a long and honored name in the struggle for civil rights. Earl Hilliard, a first-term state legislator, also has powerful family connections and his dad was the district's congressman before Davis, a pretty conservative one for such a deeply blue district.
Shelia Smoot is probably the best campaigner of the bunch and may be the most progressive, but she carries real baggage as a member of the Jefferson County Commission-- she hasn't been indicted but several other members of that body have been (some already convicted) of fraud/corruption and the Mayor of Birmingham goes to trial in a couple of weeks for stuff he did while on the Commission. And of course, the county is facing bankruptcy from shady financial deals the Commission approved. Shelia may very well be pure as the driven snow, which is certainly her reputation, but the Jefferson County Commission is just a dirty environment.
James Perkins was a distinctly non-progressive mayor of Selma and his tenure was marked by low level corruption scandals in city government. Eddison Walters, the primary candidate against Artur Davis in 2006, sounds interesting. His big issue is unfair taxation of small business people and the job losses caused by "free" trade bills in a district where unemployment is probably the #1 worry on peoples' minds. He's still seething over Davis' vote for the Bankruptcy Bill.
Because she was Davis' campaign manager Martha Bozeman can be assumed to know the district and know how to put together a winning campaign in it. Observers are wondering if she's got what it takes to move from being a political operative to a political candidate. She has a long way to go in terms of public speaking.