By Byron Shehee
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY—The campaign of former congressman and ex-gubernatorial candidate Artur Davis took another step to becoming a reality when it launched a website for an exploratory committee for mayor of Montgomery on Monday.
A press release from Davis’ campaign stated, “’Montgomery is at a crossroads, one that requires dynamic, solution-based leadership.” Davis further said, “I have no doubt that Montgomery could become the next great city of the South, but our people can’t be terrorized by crime, our schools have to be first class, and we have to win the race for the best, highest paying jobs. Treading water just isn’t good enough.”
My interest was piqued by the “good but not great” press release from the staff of the former gubernatorial candidate and congressman.
(Well played, staff.)
Soon after learning of the website’s launch and reading the press release, I searched the Internet to learn more about Davis’ would-be run for mayor.
Once on the campaign’s homepage, I read where Davis’ campaign will focus on crime, jobs/economy, government spending, education, and poverty. To Davis’ credit, it didn’t appear that his team just put up a bunch of buzzwords that tested well with a focus group. The website’s content was more specific than anticipated and it painted a picture of Montgomery that seemed energetic and vibrant.
Specifically, Davis’ vision of Montgomery would mean turning the city into “the South’s next great high-tech corridor” by becoming a hub of innovation in information technology. Davis cited Montgomery’s burgeoning population of young innovators and relationships with Maxwell and Gunter Air Force Bases as being the primary catalyst behind Montgomery’s not-yet-realized economic boom.
After I read up on Davis’ plan to bring jobs to Montgomery, I clicked the tab for everyone’s least favorite topic in Montgomery – crime.
And again, a Davis administration would appear to be proactive in its efforts to stop crime.
Davis said he wants to create “a budget that puts public safety first, and that matches police presence to where robberies are happening today” and he wants the city to take steps to prevent crime by “targeting at risk young people for intervention.”
Davis also described his process for appointing Montgomery’s next chief of police, which will include a public hearing with comments or questions from the audience.
(So far, so good)
After I read those issues and briefly scanned a few others, I did another quick Google search to see if I could find any other news.
With just a few key strokes the search box read ‘Ex-Obama ally Davis explores comeback as mayor.’
It was an article from a national publication that brought Davis’ campaign back into focus.
We were all shown what the people think of Obama just last week. Alabama and a majority of the nation voted out many of the Democrats who embraced Obama’s polices.
In some situations it didn’t matter if a candidate ever personally voted on any of Obama’s unpopular measures, the candidate simply had to be linked to Obama. In many cases a simply D was enough.
We’ll see if simply linking a candidate to Obama matters in a non-partisan municipal election over the next few months.
Even if you think partisan politics matter in municipal elections (they do), Davis isn’t your run of the mill candidate. He’s an experienced campaigner who can appeal to broad sections of the electorate. Keep in mind, this is a man who delivered speeches to both the Democrat National Convention (2008) and the Republican National Convention (2012).
Davis is a candidate who could cobble together the necessary coalition of community leaders to govern properly once elected.
As I thought about the votes needed to win the election, I wondered how any candidate in Montgomery would build that coalition.
Who would be their first call?
So, in an effort to gain more insight into Montgomery politics, I did as I’m sure many others have done before – I called Joe Reed.
After introducing myself, I asked Reed if he’d like to make a comment on what Davis’ run for mayor may mean to the city of Montgomery.
Reed responded, “no comment, not at this time.”
I quickly thanked him for his time and the call ended.
I’m not sure if Reed plans on getting involved in a non-partisan election for mayor or not, but if he does he’ll obviously carry a large amount of influence with him.
Maybe, for Montgomery, this campaign can stay positive and remain about issues relevant to the city.
Unfortunately, I have my doubts.
Davis’ campaign (like any other campaign) will have some good days, a few great days, and every day will present challenges. Some of those challenges will likely come in the form of negative ads highlighting his past relationship with Obama and I’ll even bet some will use the conservative side of his record against him as well.
Davis is going to have the difficult task of trying to transcend partisan politics, even in a non-partisan election. And it’s going to be interesting to watch him navigate the political landscape during this election, should he officially decide to run.
He’s a candidate who could seemingly throw off political labels and take a positive message to the voters that they could be excited about. He’s also a candidate who has a long history in politics and that means a lot of political baggage.
Davis has a good message and his opponents have plenty policy positions from his past to use against him.
It’s going to be interesting to see if Davis can gain the necessary momentum to build a strong campaign or if his past positions and the current structural forces limit him too much as a candidate.