Former Rep. Artur Davis says there’s a very simple reason the Alabama Democratic Party won’t bend on letting him back into the fold: Power broker Joe Reed wants to clear a path for his son, Montgomery County Probate Judge Steven L. Reed, to run for mayor in 2019.
The four-term House lawmaker for weeks has been embroiled in a tug-of-war with party leaders after being denied the opportunity to rejoin the ranks. Davis defected to the GOP in 2012 but wants back in so he can challenge incumbent Montgomery County Commissioner Dan Harris for the District 1 seat.
“I proved in the mayor's race that I could win back a number of Democrats and African Americans who were quite upset with my departure from the Democratic Party. I carried 14 of the 16 African-American boxes without the backing of any establishment African-American organizations or leadership by taking my case to the voters,” Davis told CQ Roll Call Wednesday of his unsuccessful attempt earlier this summer — Davis secured 27 percent of the vote, but not enough to force a runoff — to unseat Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange.
“Many of these voters have urged me to stay involved, not just by running for mayor again, but by seeking another opportunity to serve and to lead.”
Davis has struggled to capitalize on any such opportunities since leaving Congress. He was defeated in his 2010 race for the governorship of the Yellowhammer State by Ron Sparks, who claimed 62 percent of the vote that fall to Davis’ 38 percent.
Reed told the Tuscaloosa News at the time that Davis had “denounced his base vote” by not courting endorsements from African-American leaders.
According to Davis, Reed has never forgiven that slight.
“He has not gotten over losing control of the federal patronage process and it doesn't help that he is looking four years down the line to the time his son Probate Judge Steven Reed plans to run for Mayor,” Davis asserted in an email, adding, “A Commissioner Davis is more of a threat to him than Attorney Davis.”
CQ Roll Call made multiple requests for comment from both Reeds but has not received a response.
Last month Davis filed suit against the state Democratic Party and the State Democratic Executive Committee Executive Board for blocking his latest comeback bid. Montgomery County Circuit Judge Truman Hobbs heard the case Nov. 9 but has not yet issued a ruling.
“The Judge is aware that under Alabama law, parties have until December 10th to certify candidates for inclusion on the March 1 ballot,” Davis asserted in his email.
Overcoming the “unburied political grudge” Reed has against him, Davis argued, has helped expose elitist tendencies shared by his opponents.
“The reality is that it is not rank and file Democrats who have rejected my application to seek office, it is a select group of party insiders who do not even live in the district I seek to represent, and for the most part, do not even live in Montgomery,” he said.
Regardless of how Hobbs eventually rules, Davis is convinced his predicament mandates additional consideration.
“The question of whether party leaders can deny ballot access to a candidate who is legally qualified is a serious constitutional question that will likely have to be resolved at the state Supreme Court level regardless of the outcome of the hearing. My attorney and I have recognized this from the outset and would be prepared to appeal,” Davis said.
Even if he’s shut out this time around, this won’t be the last voters hear from Davis.
“If I am unsuccessful in this legal challenge, my next political focus will be the 2019 Mayor's race,” he pledged.
Related: Artur Davis Goes to Court to Get Back Into Democratic Party Roll Call Race Ratings Map: Ratings for Every House and Senate Race in 2016 Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call in your inbox or on your iPhone.