Last night, Rep. Artur Davis (D-AL) was soundly trounced in his state’s Democratic gubernatorial primary by Alabama agricultural commissioner Ron Sparks, losing by 24 points. The race is being considered an upset, given that “Mr. Sparks was stunned by his winning margin, considering he was on the verge of leaving the race a few months ago to avoid an embarrassing loss.”
One of the major issues that Davis ran on was his opposition to — and his vote against — federal health care reform, likely thinking that it would help win over conservative voters. The congressman complained that health care reform could be accomplished “at half the cost without a 3,000-page, near trillion-dollar overhaul of the system.” Without offering any alternative, Davis said that he voted the way he did because “we can’t just keep throwing a trillion dollars toward the problem.”
As University of Mississippi political science professor Marvin King wrote of Davis’s campaign, “Essentially, Davis threw his current constituents under the bus for his own political advancement.” Yet, Alabama progressives revolted against Davis’s endorsement of conservative orthodoxy. Four major African American advocacy groups in the state endorsed Sparks, who is white. Some of the groups cited Davis’ vote against health reform.
Unlike Davis, Sparks ran as a strong proponent of federal health care reform. During a debate last year with Davis, Sparks challenged the congressman to support tough federal health care reform, stating, “if I was in Congress, I’d fight for a public option.” And during a later speech before the Democratic Women of Madison County, Sparks was unequivocal in his support for federal health care reform, saying, “Hear me loud and clear. I support President Obama’s health care package. I support the public option. I have been vocal about it.” Watch it:
SPARKS: Hear me loud and clear. I support President Obama’s health care package. I support the public option. I have been vocal about it. … There are 48 million people who are out of health care. Yes we do need health care reform. … I am for any health care program that will give the people of Alabama and America affordable health care. What is a life worth?
As MyDD’s Nathan Empsall writes, “Davis ran to the right in a Democratic primary, fearing a conservative general electorate. Voters said thanks, but 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.”