Updated at 3:50 p.m. Tuesday to add comments and perspective from Birmingham-Southern College political science professor Dr. Natalie Davis.
Former U.S. Rep. Artur Davis has taken a sharp right turn in the two years since 2010, when he became the only black Democrat in Congress to vote against President Barack Obama’s health care law and lost the Democratic primary race for Alabama governor to Ron Sparks. But now, following speculation last week that he might be considering a run for Congress in northern Virginia, he’s put that right turn in writing.
In a blog post on his web site, Davis wrote Tuesday that if he were to run for office again, he’d run as a Republican.
“If I were to run, it would be as a Republican,” Davis wrote. “And I am in the process of changing my voter registration from Alabama to Virginia, a development which likely does represent a closing of one chapter and perhaps the opening of another.”
Davis said he is yet to reach a decision on whether to run, or even what office he might run for (although he seems set on Virginia), and that he is “nowhere near deciding.” But he has many options: Davis wrote that he could run for one of several House seats in the Virginia suburbs of Washington D.C. in 2014 or 2016, but he may also be considering running for a seat in the Virginia legislature.
Davis’ post confirms the story, posted last week by Buzzfeed, on Davis’ intentions. He said then that he was not ready to declare a political party.
“Unless I were to re-enter politics in some way shape or form, there’s no need for me to declare affiliation,” Artur Davis said in the Buzzfeed article.
Dr. Natalie Davis, an expert on Alabama politics and a political science professor at Birmingham-Southern College since 1972, says Artur Davis has preparing for this switch for the past two years.
“In many respects, Artur Davis is a man without a party,” Dr. Davis told Weld. “He’s burned so many bridges in the Democratic party here, he has very few friends on Capitol Hill and inside the black caucus—where does he turn next if he wants a political career?”
Dr. Davis believes that if Artur Davis ran and won a House seat in 2014 or 2016 and Republicans maintained control of the House, then Artur could be able to negotiate for prime committee assignments.
“My sense of this is that he’s been wooed by a Republican higher up who see him as sort of an important cross between a moderate Democrat and someone Republicans can tolerate,” Dr. Davis said. “Many will say it represents a step forward for the Republican party. It’s also a cynical move by the Republican party to divide Democrats.”
In his blog post Tuesday, Artur Davis lobbed several attacks at the national Democratic Party, but he also moderated some of those attacks with nuance. He wrote that Democrats “punish businesses and job creators” with taxes but said every tax break isn’t defensible, and that he “can’t say every dollar spent on our weak and our marginal is a give-away.” Davis stabbed at the Obama administration’s legal assault on state anti-immigrant laws, but showed compassion for the lawfully present Latinos who “have to dodge the glare of so-called ‘self-deportation laws’ that look too uncomfortably like profiling.”
He also wrote that Obama’s victory in 2008 failed to unite the country, and he reiterated his distaste for the health care law.
“Taken together, these are hardly the enthusiasms of a Democrat circa 2012, and they wouldn’t be defensible in a Democratic primary,” Davis wrote. “So, if I were to leave the sidelines, it would be as a member of the Republican Party that is fighting the drift in this country in a way that comes closest to my way of thinking: wearing a Democratic label no longer matches what I know about my country and its possibilities.”
Davis represented Alabama’s Seventh Congressional district as a Democrat from 2003 until January 2011. In the 2010 gubernatorial primary, Davis tacked to the middle and did not seek endorsements from some black political organizations in the state, allowing his opponent, then-Agriculture Commissioner Ron Sparks, to pick up endorsements from those organizations. Sparks beat Davis by a landslide in the primary, winning 62.4 percent of the Democratic vote to Davis’ 37.6 percent. Sparks went on to lose to Robert Bentley in the general election by 15 percentage points.
Davis left Alabama after his loss and said then that he was done with politics. He entered into private practice as an attorney with SNR Denton in 2011. He also served as a visiting fellow at the Harvard Institute of Politics in the spring.
Read Davis’ blog post here.