Artur Davis

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Artur Davis
Artur Davis, official photo portrait, color.jpg
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Alabama's 7th district
In office
January 3, 2003 – January 3, 2011
Preceded byEarl Hilliard
Succeeded byTerri Sewell
Personal details
Artur Genestre Davis

(1967-10-09) October 9, 1967 (age 55)
Montgomery, Alabama, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic (before 2012, 2015–2016, 2017–present)
Other political
Republican (2012–2015, 2016–2017)
SpouseTara Johnson
EducationHarvard University (BA, JD)

Artur Genestre Davis (/ɑːrˈtʊər/; born October 9, 1967) is an American attorney and former politician who served as a Democratic member of the United States House of Representatives for Alabama's 7th congressional district from 2003 to 2011. He was also a candidate for the Democratic nomination for Governor of Alabama in the 2010 election. After losing in the primary, he moved to Virginia and joined the Republican Party. He rejoined the Democratic Party 2015 and 2017 in his two attempts to be elected Mayor of Montgomery, Alabama in the 2015 and 2019 elections, losing both times. He rejoined the Republican Party for one year in 2016.

Davis was an early supporter of Barack Obama's 2008 bid for the presidency, and one of the national co-chairs for Obama's 2008 campaign. Known for his oratorical skills, Davis made one of the nominating speeches for Obama at the 2008 Democratic National Convention. While serving on the House Ways and Means Committee, Davis was the first African-American member of Congress to advocate that Committee Chairman Charles B. Rangel give up the chairmanship of the tax committee in the wake of ethics charges against Rangel. In 2009 and 2010 Davis, voted against the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the only member of the Congressional Black Caucus to do so.

In 2009, Davis sought to become Alabama's first African-American Governor. In attempting to appeal to a broader electorate, he lost the support of black voters by opposing national health care reform and failing to meet with certain black political groups.[1] He lost in the Democratic primary to Agriculture Commissioner Ron Sparks, a more liberal Democrat.[2] Shortly after, Davis announced he would not be running for re-election to the House in 2010, instead returning to the practice of law.

A 1990s honors graduate of Harvard University, in 2012 Davis became a visiting fellow at the Harvard Institute of Politics. He also began writing a column for the conservative National Review. He considered running for Congress as a Republican in the 2014 House elections in Virginia but did not do so.[3] A resident of Virginia from 2011 until 2014, Davis spoke at the 2012 Republican National Convention in support of the Republican nominee for President, Mitt Romney.[2] He was defeated in his two attempts to be elected Mayor of Montgomery, Alabama in the 2015 and 2019 mayoral elections.[4]

Early life, education, and early career[edit]

Davis was born in Montgomery, Alabama, on October 9, 1967, and was raised by his mother and grandmother. He graduated from Jefferson Davis High School and then magna cum laude from Harvard University in 1990. He earned a J.D. cum laude from Harvard Law School before returning to Alabama. He was the recipient of the Best Oralist Award in the Ames Moot Court Competition at Harvard Law School.

After working as an intern at the Southern Poverty Law Center and then as a civil rights lawyer. he served as an Assistant United States Attorney.

U.S. House of Representatives[edit]

Davis during the 111th Congress



Davis ran for the House in the Democratic primary against 10-year incumbent and former civil rights activist Earl F. Hilliard. He criticized Hilliard for taking a trip to Libya in 1997 despite U.S. sanctions. Davis lost the 2000 primary election 58%–34%.[5]


Davis ran again in 2002. The race attracted national attention because both candidates made the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, an issue, and both attracted support and money from outside of Alabama—Davis from Jewish Americans and supporters of Israel, Hilliard from Arab-Americans and supporters of the Palestinians.[5][6] During the campaign, Hilliard questioned whether Davis was "black enough" to represent the district. Davis narrowly won the primary requiring a runoff in June. He won the runoff easily, assuring him victory in November in the heavily Democratic district, and he began his term in January 2003.


Davis was challenged in the 2004 primary by Albert Turner Jr., a son of a leader of Selma's "Bloody Sunday" march. Davis won the primary 88%–12%.


In the Democratic primary, he defeated political newcomer Eddison Walters 90%–9%. He won the general election unopposed.

Rep Davis meeting Alabama troops preparing to leave for Iraq war, 2003 (US House photo)

In the new Democratically controlled 110th Congress, Davis was assigned to the Committee on Ways and Means. The stature of that appointment, and the difficulty of raising sufficient funds, led Davis to postpone plans to challenge conservative Senator Jeff Sessions in 2008. In January 2007, Davis said that he was still interested in running on a statewide ticket in 2010, either for Governor, or for Senate if Richard Shelby elected to retire.[7]

Davis delivers a seconding speech formally placing Barack Obama's name in nomination during the third day of the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver, Colorado.

In 2007 he became the first Congressman outside Illinois to endorse Senator Barack Obama for president in 2008.[8] At the 2008 Democratic National Convention, Davis gave a seconding speech formally placing Obama's name in nomination.[9] Davis also served as one of Obama's national campaign co-chairs.[1][10]

Davis's name surfaced in media speculation as a potential Attorney General in Obama's cabinet.[11][12] However, Davis was quoted in The Birmingham News as stating that he did not anticipate such an offer, and would refuse it if made.[13]


As a freshman in Congress, Davis led the successful fight to reverse funding cuts for minority land grant colleges including Tuskegee University.[14] As a second term member, Davis won a floor fight to restore funding to the HOPE VI program for renovating public housing; he persuaded over sixty Republicans to vote with Democrats. In 2005, Davis was the lead Democratic sponsor of a bill establishing a national cord blood bank which will widen the availability of blood transfusions for thousands of patients who suffer from diseases such as sickle cell anemia and diabetes.[15] He received an A− grade on his voting record relating to veteran issues from Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.[16]

Davis was appointed to the Senior Whip Team for the Democratic Caucus of the 109th Congress and was the co-chair of the centrist House New Democrat Coalition, as well as the Southern Regional co-chair for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

Davis was the first member of the Congressional Black Caucus to demand that former House Ways and Means Chair Charlie Rangel surrender his gavel in the wake of an ongoing ethics investigation.[17]

Davis twice voted against the Democratic-supported health care reform legislation, first in November 2009,[18] and again in March 2010 when the legislation passed and was signed into law by President Obama.[19] He was the only member of the Congressional Black Caucus to vote against the legislation in March 2010;[19] he was also the member from the most-heavily Democratic-leaning district to vote against the legislation.[20]

In April 2009, Davis voted against the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act.[21]

Committee assignments[edit]

In Congress, Davis was a member of the Committee on Ways and Means, the Committee on the Judiciary and several of their subcommittees. He was a member of the 30 Something Working Group and the Congressional Black Caucus.

2010 gubernatorial election[edit]

On February 6, 2009, Davis announced his candidacy for Governor of Alabama in 2010. His opponent in the Democratic primary was state Agriculture Commissioner Ron Sparks.[22]

During the primary campaign, Davis downplayed matters of race and emphasized his independence from Democratic party orthodoxy. He caused controversy, including within his heavily minority congressional district, by voting against President Barack Obama's new health-care law—the only black Democrat in Congress to do so. He also refused to sit for the endorsement screenings of Alabama's black political groups, drawing criticism that he was snubbing African Americans in order to court white votes.[1][23] Davis lost the Democratic primary to Sparks on June 1, 2010, ending his gubernatorial bid. Birmingham News columnist John Archibald questioned Davis' strategy, saying that he campaigned "as it if were a general election and he wanted to claim some conservative street cred." Archibald believed that this hurt him with Democratic primary voters in Alabama, who are "blue dots in this big red state," and resulted in him becoming "the first African-American candidate in a statewide Alabama race to lose the black vote."[24] After the primary, state Representative Roderick Scott said black Democrats “can no longer take for granted they will receive the African-American vote.”[25] Davis announced he was retiring from politics and would return to private practice at the conclusion of his term in Congress in 2011.[26] Davis was succeeded by Democrat Terri Sewell, the first African-American woman elected to the United States House of Representatives from Alabama.

Post-congressional career[edit]

For a time, Davis was doubtful he would run for public office again. He said, "Alabama is not friendly to independent candidacies” and suggested that running as a Republican would not be a viable option because the Alabama Republican Party had declined to embrace politicians who have switched parties such as former U.S. Congressman Parker Griffith who switched parties and lost the Republican primary in 2010. He changed his voter registration from Alabama to Virginia in 2012, and said he would run as a Republican were he to seek political office in the future.[27]

In the Spring of 2012, he announced he would become a visiting fellow at the Harvard Institute of Politics.[28] In 2012, the conservative National Review online started publishing some of his political commentary.[29][30] In February 2012, Davis told Politico that some Democrats wanted to argue that Obama's critics were motivated by racism, which Davis called "a huge mistake ... a tactic that's likely to backfire" as it would lead "substantial number of Americans" to believe they were being called racists because they did not support Obama.[31]

In August 2012, he cited remarks by Vice President Joe Biden for "racial viciousness"[1] for remarks Davis said were insulting to African Americans, and said, "Governor Romney is absolutely right as the Obama campaign is running a divisive campaign … pitting one set of Americans against another issue after issue". Davis also said, "It wouldn't be so bad if Barack Obama had not campaigned in such a different way."[32] Davis spoke at the Republican National Convention in August 2012 to voice additional criticisms of Barack Obama.[2] Following Mitt Romney's loss in the 2012 presidential election, Davis said: "The Republican conservative base seems perilously close to shrinking to white southern evangelicals, senior white males, and upper income Protestants."[33]

In December 2013, it was announced that Davis would not run for retiring Republican Congressman Frank Wolf's seat in Virginia. Davis had previously expressed interest in running for Wolf's seat after his move to the state.[34]

In late June 2014, it was reported that Davis was considering running for Mayor of Montgomery, Alabama in 2015.[35] On July 18, 2014, Davis announced that he would launch an exploratory campaign for a mayoral run.[36] On January 22, 2015, he officially declared his candidacy as a Democrat.[4] On August 25, 2015, Artur Davis was defeated in the mayoral election by incumbent mayor Todd Strange. Following this loss, Davis expressed interest in running for the Montgomery County Commission in 2016 as a Democrat. However, the Alabama Democratic Party refused to allow Davis on the ballot, as he had supported a Republican candidate for office within the past four years.[37]

Davis was also a candidate for Mayor of Montgomery, Alabama in the August 2019 mayoral election, but lost again, winning 1,784 votes and placing sixth of twelve candidates.[38]

Electoral history[edit]

Alabama's 7th Congressional District House Election, 2002
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Democratic Artur Davis 153,735 92.44%
Libertarian Lauren Orth McCay 12,100 7.28%
Alabama's 7th Congressional District House Election, 2004
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Democratic Artur Davis 183,408 74.97% −17.47%
Republican Steve Cameron 61,019 24.94% +24.94%
Alabama's 7th Congressional District House Election, 2006
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Democratic Artur Davis 133,870 99.04% +24.07%
Alabama's 7th Congressional District House Election, 2008
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Democratic Artur Davis 228,518 98.63% −0.41%
Alabama's Democratic Gubernatorial Primary, 2010
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Democratic Ron Sparks 199,558 62.44%
Democratic Artur Davis 120,050 37.56%
Montgomery mayoral election, 2015
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Todd Strange 22,744 56.50
Democratic Artur Davis 11,010 27.35
Democratic Dan Harris 4,508 11.20
Democratic Ella Bell 1,645 4.09
Democratic Buena Browder 349 0.87
Total votes 40,256 100

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Newsome, Melba (August 16, 2012). "Why Artur Davis is eager to stand with the GOP". The Grio.
  2. ^ a b c Williamson, Michael S. (August 16, 2012). "Artur Davis, who backed Obama in 2008, to speak at GOP convention". Washington Post.
  3. ^ Artur Davis Switches Parties Archived 2012-05-30 at the Wayback Machine. Political Wire (2012-05-30). Retrieved on 2012-07-03.
  4. ^ a b Erin Edgemon (January 22, 2015). "Former Congressman Artur Davis officially announces run for Montgomery mayor". Retrieved January 22, 2015.
  5. ^ a b Zogby, James (May 27, 2002). "A Congressional Election to Watch: The Middle East Conflict in Alabama's Seventh". Washington Watch. Archived from the original on December 2, 2010. Retrieved August 16, 2012.
  6. ^ "Is Congressman Hilliard the next victim of pro". Retrieved 2018-07-11.
  7. ^ Orndorff, Mary, "Davis Won't Run for Senate in '08, but 2010 Race Another Matter." The Birmingham News, January 8, 2007, p. 1A.
  8. ^ Howard FinemanFebruary 16, 2008 (2008-02-16). "Fineman, Howard, "Part of Something Larger," Newsweek, Feb. 25, 2008". Retrieved 2010-06-06.
  9. ^ "Balz, Dan and Kornblut, Anne, "Democrats Nominate Obama," The Washington Post, August 28, 2008, p. A1". 2008-08-28. Retrieved 2010-06-06.
  10. '^ "Steinhauser, "Former Obama campaign co-chair to stump for Romney," CNN, Aug. 16, 2008". 2012-08-16. Retrieved 2012-08-16.
  11. ^ "Our Campaigns – US Attorney General Race – Jan 20, 2009". Retrieved 2008-11-08.
  12. ^ "Snyder, Jim, "Door Opens on Cabinet Speculation," The Hill, November 5, 2008". Retrieved 2010-06-06.
  13. ^ "Gordon, Tom, "Davis Says Obama's Total in Alabama Doesn't Mean a Black Candidate Cannot Win Statewide Race," The Birmingham News, November 6, 2008, p. 1B". 2008-11-06. Archived from the original on June 9, 2011. Retrieved 2010-06-06.
  14. ^ Orndorff, Mary, "House OKs Davis' Amendment to Restore Land Grant Funds," The Birmingham News, July 15, 2003, p. 6B
  15. ^ "Marrow, Cord-blood Databank OK'd," The Birmingham News, December 17, 2005, p. 4D
  16. ^ IAVA Full Ratings List. (2008-08-28). Retrieved on 2012-07-03.
  17. ^ Crabtree, Susan (2010-03-02). "Davis calls on Rangel to give up tax chairmanship after ethics finding". Archived from the original on 20 June 2010. Retrieved 2010-06-06.
  18. ^ "The most important number in politics this weekend". The Washington Post.
  19. ^ a b Bacon Jr., Perry (2010-03-24). "Rep. Artur Davis seeks to become Alabama's first African American governor". Retrieved 2010-06-21.
  20. ^ Sirota, David (2010-03-21). "The 10 most courageous (and 10 most cowardly) House Democrats – The Numerologist". Archived from the original on 27 May 2010. Retrieved 2010-06-06.
  21. ^ Final vote results for roll call 223 at
  22. ^ Reeves, Jay (2009-02-06). "Artur Davis Seeks To Be Alabama's First Black Governor". Retrieved 2010-06-21.
  23. ^ "Alabama Voters Oust Black Gov Candidate". 2010-06-02. Archived from the original on March 14, 2012. Retrieved 2010-06-06.
  24. ^ Artur Davis' loss in Alabama's black precincts 'stunning'. Retrieved on 2012-07-03.
  25. ^ Why Alabama's Artur Davis Lost the Black Vote. The Daily Beast (2010-06-03). Retrieved on 2012-07-03.
  26. ^ "Artur Davis through with politics after loss". Associated Press. 2010-06-03. Retrieved 2010-09-23.
  27. ^ Davis, Artur (May 29, 2012). "A Response to Political Rumors". Archived from the original on May 30, 2012.
  28. ^ Fisher, Marc (2012-01-02). "Former Democratic Rep. Artur Davis talks party-switching". The Washington Post.
  29. ^ Davis, Artur (2012-01-24). "Draft Jeb Bush". National Review online. Retrieved 2012-02-12.
  30. ^ Davis, Artur (2012-02-10). "Explaining Santorum's Surge". National Review online. Retrieved 2012-02-12.
  31. ^ Glenn, Thrush (2012-02-06). "The race issue rises again". Politico.
  32. ^ Kucinich, Jackie (August 15, 2012). "Artur Davis: Biden's 'chains' comment 'insulting'". USA Today.
  33. ^ "The Republican Dilemma". Archived from the original on 2013-03-13. Retrieved 2013-06-27.
  34. ^ Joseph, Cameron (23 December 2013). "Artur Davis won't run for Rep. Wolf's seat". The Hill.
  35. ^ Edgemon, Erin (June 27, 2014). "Former U.S. Rep. Artur Davis considering run for Montgomery mayor". Retrieved June 28, 2014.
  36. ^ Edgemon, Erin (July 18, 2014). "Artur Davis forming committee to gauge support for his potential run for Montgomery mayor". Retrieved July 18, 2014.
  37. ^ Cason, Mike (November 18, 2015). "Judge dismisses Artur Davis lawsuit against state Democratic Party". Retrieved May 17, 2016.
  38. ^ "Former congressman announces intention to run for Montgomery mayor". Retrieved August 19, 2019.

External links[edit]

U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Alabama's 7th congressional district

Succeeded by
U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded byas Former US Representative Order of precedence of the United States
as Former US Representative
Succeeded byas Former US Representative