Trends continue as Griffith and Davis lose their Alabama primaries

Primaries in three states tonight, with both the important headlines coming out of Alabama: Repub Parker Griffith is the latest House incumbent to lose a primary, and Rep. Artur Davis lost a gubernatorial campaign by over 30 points that he was expected to win. If these results show us anything, it's what we already know: Americans are sick of Washington politics, Democrats are sick of Republican-lite candidates running in their primaries, and voters can sense naked political opportunism when they see it.

The biggest news of the night is Congressman Parker Griffith of Alabama, a Democrat turned Republican, lost his AL-05 primary to Madison County Commissioner Mo Brooks, 51-23. Griffith’s loss isn’t a big surprise – the Madison County Republican Party endorsed BOTH of Parker’s opponents – but it will play into the national anti-incumbent meme. This is an anti-incumbent year, yes, but as with PA-SEN the real thing to take away from this race is that you can’t ask the base that once vilified you to suddenly embrace you. If voters can sense only one thing, it’s authenticity, and Parker Griffith was anything but genuine.

Regarding the general, according to, “The 5th Congressional District has not elected a Republican representative in more than a century, and Brooks will now face Democratic nominee Steve Raby in November.” Raby is a former US Senate staffer running in an anti-Washington year, and half century or not McCain and Bush did each win 60% of the vote here, so it’ll be a tough one to hold.

Also notable is Rep. Artur Davis’ stunning lost to Ag Commission Ron Sparks in the Democratic primary for Alabama Governor. I call it stunning because Davis led Sparks 41-33 just two weeks ago, yet is down 62-38 with 96% of precincts reporting. Another surprise here is that the white Sparks pulled a full 40% of the African American vote. Says Ed Kilgore at FiveThirtyEight, “The CW tomorrow will probably be that Davis thought far too much about positioning himself for the general election before concentrating on the primary, and that Sparks' uncontested claim on endorsements by African-American political groups was a big deal after all.”

Davis did sort of approach the primary with an air of entitlement, having planned to run in this race for years. I used to be a big fan of his, but I can’t say I’m too disappointed by this loss. The closer Davis got to running state-wide, the more conservative he became. I interviewed him for the Dartmouth Free Press in 2006 and wrote a flattering profile, as did the New York Times Magazine in 2008, which at the time he probably deserved. But as Howie Klein observed last October,

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!

Davis ran to the right in a Democratic primary, fearing a conservative general electorate. Voters said thanks, but no thanks. Griffith abandoned the Democratic primary altogether, fearing that same electorate. A different set of voters again said no thanks. Voters aren’t stupid – whether they know the facts or not, they can sense authenticity. That’s an important takeaway for candidates in any race: be genuine. Be yourself.

But of course, it’s not the only takeaway. As the media will point out, Davis was the Washington candidate; Sparks was more local. Griffith is another incumbent Congressman to lose his seat in a primary. Tonight will be spun as, and to some extent is, part of the anti-incumbent trend. has more Alabama primary results. Mississippi and New Mexico also had primaries, but no House incumbents lost because no incumbents were primaried, so the light turnout is no surprise. New Mexico Repubs did select Susana Martinez to face off against Democrat Diane Denish in the gubernatorial race to replace Bill Richardson; Lt. Gov Denish is likely the favorite.

Three Cheers for Artur Davis!

Artur Davis is an ambitious man. A Harvard graduate and Democratic congressman from Alabama’s 7th congressional district, Mr. Davis is busy planning an audacious run for governor in one of America’s reddest states.

Moreover, Mr. Davis is doing all this in one of the most unfavorable environments for Democrats in recent history. His campaign, many think, is bound to fail.

But political analysts are not skeptical for any of the reasons above. They are interested, rather, in the fact that Mr. Davis has black skin. According to the Beltway, white people in Alabama will never vote for a black man – and so Mr. Davis’s campaign is doomed from the get-go.

There is some truth to this simplistic analysis. Politics in the Deep South is heavily racially polarized; often the Democrats are the party of blacks and Republicans are the party of whites. Exit polls indicate that President Barack Obama won a grand 10% of Alabama’s white vote; Senator John McCain won a grand 2% of Alabama’s black vote.

On the other hand, Mr. Obama wrote off Alabama the second the primaries ended. In Deep South Georgia, where his campaign put in some effort, the president came within 5.2%. The three southern states he contested full stop ended up voting Democratic.

Indeed, candidates who make serious appeals to “racist” voters often end up doing surprisingly well. The first state to elect an Indian-American governor was not multiethnic California, not liberal Massachusetts – but blood-red Louisiana, where Bobby Jindal overcame racial animosity through years of hard work. LA-2′s majority-black constituents surprised everybody, a month after Obama’s election, by voting for Vietnamese-American Joseph Cao instead of the black Democrat. For Alabama state representative James Fields, decades of good work and relationship-building translated into electoral support by the monolithically white residents of Cullman County, Alabama. This is quite something, given a description of Cullman County:

Cullman’s are exits off the Interstate that most African-Americans avoid. A district judge at the Cullman courthouse named Kim Chaney told me, “I do have black people who are very reluctant to come to court here because of the reputation we’ve had for so many years”…Rozalyn Love, a medical student at the University of Alabama in Birmingham explains, “Cullman is known, especially among Birmingham folks, as the racist white bigot county.” In Alabama, this is, of course, saying something.

As these examples show, racism is not a constant. A minority candidate does not automatically lose 10 or 20% of white voters just by running (or vice-versa). Instead, racism constitutes a variable that can be reduced or increased. If Mr. Obama doesn’t bother to visit Alabama, then white voters in Alabama – already predisposed to be hostile – won’t vote for him. If well-meaning Democrats always nominate white candidates, believing that minority candidates can’t win, then it literally becomes impossible for minority candidates to win.

On the other hand, if a Bobby Jindal makes a determined effort to reach out to “racist” voters, he’ll get votes. If a James Field spends decades working for “racist” places, then those places will vote for him. If a Joseph Cao runs in a district where nobody believes a non-black candidate can win, he might find himself pleasantly surprised.

So three cheers for Artur Davis, for attempting to do what everybody else deems as impossible. Perhaps Mr. Davis loses votes by being black – but he also can gain votes through intelligence, sheer determination, and by running an outstanding campaign that reaches out to everybody. If he successfully does these things, Mr. Davis might just do better than anybody can imagine.


McWane, Representative Davis? Who's McWane?

Okay here it is, a look under the hood of what makes our political system work, the muscles and sinews that will make impeachment happen if it ever does.  This is a full list of the top 3 or 4 major campaign contributors to every House Judiciary Committee member who refuses to get on the impeachment train, with a link to contact that contributor.  It's all in the hands of 40 people now, a manageable number.  Forget it if you are a mere constituent.  These are who gets their phone calls returned.  

Some of them are a lot richer than you or me, but they are still Americans who were born with the same rights that are now being taken away, and the same interest in the rule of law.  Bush could have been a good "Republican" president, mere pillaging and looting the treasury for corporate friends.  That we expect, hell, Democrats too.  But he started messing with our rights, and bankrupting the country in a way that hurts nearly everyone.  If your writing hand is sore writing letters to congressmen who just throw them in the trash, let's write to the people they HAVE to listen to.

The goal is to persuade contributors to tell these guys they aren't getting another dime until they do their duty to impeach Cheney first, then Bush.  This works in a couple of ways.  First, there are patriots everywhere, and we can't assume that because someone is a captain of industry, is loaded, and is hooked into the system, he isn't pissed about what has been happening too.  Over Thanksgiving I talked with four or five former hardcore Bush supporters, invited to the inaugural and everything, who now say they don't care if he's impeached and probably deserves it.  The reasons they want him impeached are different from the reasons I do, but the effect is the same.  We had a good laugh and actually agreed on something.  The iron is hot.

The other level on which this works is that this is interesting reading.  I initially thought I was in for hours of drudgery putting these links together, but I found myself intrigued at who is giving money to whom.  Sometimes it makes sense, like a the big defense contractor in town is obviously going to ante up when the congressman comes a-calling.  But why would a real estate developer in Arizona be giving the max to a congressman in Indiana (Pence)?  By the time I was done, I think I had a pretty good idea of how the machine works, with LOTS of questions.  Ordinary people poking around these reports, and asking questions, is what congressmen DO NOT want.  

The broad outlines don't surprise me.  Defense, finance and real estate, oil and gas, telecommunications, all seem to pop up with predictable regularity.  But then you'll see a company that makes you wonder what kind of business they could possibly have before the government, like McWane Co., cast iron pipe fittings (Artur Davis, Alabama, Democrat.)  You google a bit and viola!  Turns out McWane has been having some serious problems with OSHA, one of the "most dangerous places to work in America." These guys aren't congressmen; they're enterprises.

For my money the best bet is to focus on the unions.  They give enormous sums, and if they said "dance," the Dems would dance.  

Write nice letters and emails asking these organizations to put impeachment on their agendas when it comes time to discuss which candidates they will support.  Being on the "inside," a union or professional association member, or the holder of a few shares who asks to speak about the company PAC at a shareholder's meeting, is best.  But as many impassioned pleas to your fellow Americans as you can manage, about our disappearing rights, about how everyone wants impeachment but it just won't start, may be the shove that undoes the logjam.  We found out the hard way the congressmen don't give a rat's ass what we think.  In our Massachusetts 1st, Congressman John Olver acknowledged that an "overwhelming majority" of his district wanted him to co-sponsor Kucinich's H.Res.333 for the impeachment of Cheney, and even said he was concerned Bush would attack Iran from the air, declare a national emergency upon the inevitable retaliation of terror attacks here, and cancel the 2008 elections (why is it Americans are the only people who get offended if folks don't hold still while we bomb them?)  These fantastic, surreal things came out of his mouth, and still he is against impeachment.  He now has a primary challenge from attorney Bob Feuer of the Northeast Impeachment Coalition.

They keep spinning along about elections and bills which, once passed, Bush will ignore with a signing statement anyway.  He can put in his signing statement that THAT wasn't the bill, THIS was.  Right now everything, the rule of law itself, is at stake.

These are the folks who helped get these congressmen elected.  They will bear some responsibility in the eyes of history.


Links to help you compose your letter/email (cutting and pasting is fine):

Impeach Investiations?  Here, They're Done! The Public Evidence for Impeachment

The President Himself

Enormous thanks to the patriots at the non-profit, who did the real work of putting this info online.  It has no value until we USE it.

There's more...

Kissell, Reps. Davis & Miller, Bowers & Rothenberg = Big News

You might have wondered what happened to Larry Kissell after November's election.  We haven't been bringing much news out from North Carolina about him, so wanted to update you on all that has happened.    

Larry Kissell immediately declared his intent to run again in 2008.  He might have slowed down over winter holidays, but he hasn't missed a beat.  He is already running like an old pro and is doing what he can to help other prospective congressional candidates in North Carolina.

This past weekend Larry and his staff attended the annual convention of the Young Democrats of North Carolina.  A reception was held for him with DCCC recruitment chair, Rep. Artur Davis, Rep. Brad Miller, NCDP Chair Jerry Meek and Chris Bowers attending.  A full post about the event is at BlueNC.

There's more...

Guess who got a CBC ovation?

In a week when the House ethics rules were tightened up with much fanfare and ballyhoo, some Dem reps, it seems, had other priorities.

According to the Times-Picayunereporting on Thurday's jamboree, before the House chamber action got under way,

members of the Congressional Black Caucus gave Rep. William Jefferson, D-New Orleans, a standing ovation for his commanding re-election last month...

Given the sterling support of some senior CBC colleagues in his election campaigns for LA-2, that's not surprising.

There's more...


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