(Aug. 29) One of the more interesting political careers in recent decades probably ended this week, but electoral defeat shouldn’t preclude many years more of public policy work for former Congressman Artur Davis of Alabama.

Davis was trounced Aug. 27 in a 12-way race for mayor of Montgomery, finishing sixth, with just 4% of the vote. Four years earlier, Davis came in second to a popular incumbent in a five-way race for the same office. Caught betwixt and between, as a centrist and a man without a party in a political atmosphere that rewards ideological party stalwarts, Davis seems to have little elective future.

This is a real shame. Davis has a lot to offer. Perhaps a centrist or reformist think tank can make use of his great talents.

A graduate of Harvard Law School who won the award there for oratory, Davis served as an assistant U.S. attorney before entering politics. In 2002 he was elected to Congress as a moderate after winning a primary against liberal incumbent Earl Hilliard, who was hounded by ethical issues and an apparent anti-Israel animus. As a freshman, Davis had the guts to defend conservative federal judicial nominee Bill Pryor against a national liberal smear effort led by Sen. Ted Kennedy.

An admirer of Barack Obama’s since law school (their tenures at Harvard overlapped), and a believer in Obama’s moderate mid-2000s rhetoric, Davis was the first congressman outside Illinois to endorse Obama for president against Hillary Clinton, and became a national co-chair for his campaign.

Still, his voting record moved from center-left to center, and he was the only Democrat in the House intellectually honest enough to acknowledge he had been wrong earlier in the decade to join his colleagues in giving too much leeway to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the semi-public home-lending institutions whose policies and bad management helped caused the financial crisis.

A member of the prestigious House Ways and Means Committee, Davis was the only member of the Congressional Black Caucus to vote against (several times) the bills known as Obamacare. He ran for governor of Alabama in 2010, but lost the Democratic primary to a far more liberal white candidate….

(The full column is here.)


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