Davis was trying to make history, by becoming the first black governor of Alabama, and most polls had shown him with a slight lead. But Sparks won in a runaway, trouncing Davis 62 percent to 38 percent.
The outcome seems to have sent a clear message and raised a major question. If Artur Davis gets the message, and answers the question correctly, he still could have a prominent role in Alabama politics--maybe even on the national stage.
Davis took an unusual approach in the primary, steering clear of traditional civil-rights groups and courting pro-business interests in an apparent effort to appeal to white voters. The plan failed miserably.
The message? If you are going to run as a Democrat in a state that has seen its politics grossly corrupted by business interests, don't come off as a semi-Republican.
What's the big question left from yesterday's results? It's this: Does Artur Davis have a future in Alabama, even national, politics?
If Davis plays his cards right--and shows voters that he has both a spine and key core values--the answer is yes.
Davis might get the opportunity to turn things around quickly if he is named U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Alabama. Davis has been a friend of President Barack Obama, and we reported recently that the Congressman had asked the White House to leave the U.S. attorney position in Montgomery open in case he lost the governor's race.
Well, Davis did lose the governor's race, badly, and now we will find out if he indeed is interested in becoming a chief federal prosecutor. If Davis is appointed, we should learn quickly if he is serious about the job.
Artur Davis probably does not realize it yet, but yesterday's thrashing could turn out to be a blessing for the people of Alabama--and for him.
For one thing, Davis almost certainly was not going to win the general election in November, while Sparks should have a chance--especially since GOP favorite Bradley Byrne is in a runoff and showed signs of weakness in yesterday's primary.
For another thing, the U.S. attorney position in Montgomery might be more important over the next few years than the governor's role. Alabama cannot truly move forward unless somebody looks backwards to investigate Bush-era crimes and clean up the mess in Montgomery.
If Davis is appointed and takes the job seriously, he could show Alabamians how their political system has been grotesquely corrupted over the past 10 to 20 years. And given that corruption in Alabama almost certainly was driven by the Bush White House and Karl Rove, Davis could become a major national figure.
Americans have been known to look kindly on progressives who prove to be reformers and corruption fighters. (See Roosevelt, Teddy.) Could Davis become such a transformative figure?
Well, yesterday's elections might have done him another favor. In the Democratic primary for attorney general, Michel Nicrosi came in a distant third, behind James Anderson and Giles Perkins.
Nicrosi is the name originally floated for the U.S. attorney position in Montgomery. U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) objected to her nomination, and the Obama administration chose not to fight for her--or the followup "floatee," Joseph Van Heest. That's why a Bush appointee, the abominable Leura Canary, remains in office, some 16 months into Obama's term.
Nicrosi is a highly respected prosecutor, and several sources have told Legal Schnauzer that she has the fortitude to take on the corrupt politicos in Montgomery.
If Davis becomes U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Alabama, he should hire Nicrosi as his chief lieutenant and turn her loose. According to our sources, Davis also would be wise to go to Columbus, Ohio, and hire Christa Deegan, who made a positive contribution in Montgomery before essentially being run off by the corrupt Canary.
It's unclear if Nicrosi and Deegan would accept such appointments. And it's unclear if Davis, should he be appointed, would take the job seriously.
Davis is a curious political figure. He made some stunningly stupid strategic decisions in his run for governor, but it's clear that Davis--with multiple degrees from Harvard--is hardly a stupid fellow. Davis has a background as a prosecutor, having served as an assistant U.S. attorney in the Montgomery office, so he has credentials as a crime fighter. But so far, he has shown that he would rather cozy up to the corrupt interests in central Alabama--rather than make them extremely uncomfortable.
Voters in Alabama sent Davis a resounding message yesterday: "We know that you look nice, speak well, and have strong academic and professional credentials. But we want to know who you really are. We want to know what you really believe."
If Davis answers those concerns in the right way, his future could be very bright. We could still see him becoming governor, U.S. senator, U.S. attorney general. Perhaps he could even take the road paved by Teddy Roosevelt and make a legit run at the White House.
Perhaps Davis, and his possible future colleagues in the Obama Justice Department, need to remember this quote from Roosevelt in 1900:
“No man who is corrupt, no man who condones corruption in others, can possibly do his duty by the community.”
The ball is in Davis' court. Will he show us what he's made of?