Alabama Congressman Artur Davis, who is attempting to become that state’s first Black governor, was the lone Congressional Black Caucus member who voted against health care reform championed by President Barack Obama, sparking local and national criticism.
“He let us down,” state Rep. Mary Moore, a Birmingham Democrat, told BlackAmericaWeb.com. “You tell someone, ‘Vote for me, and I will look out for you,’ then they vote for his or her own agenda.”
She and about a dozen people gathered in front of Davis’ downtown Birmingham office around midnight Saturday.
“We prayed for a miracle. We prayed that God would change his heart because so many people in this country and in his district are hurting,” Moore said.
Davis says he couldn’t vote for the health care reform package because it’s too big.
“A comprehensive, 2,000-page, near one trillion dollar overhaul of the health care system is just too cumbersome and too costly in a time of trillion dollar deficits,” Davis said last week.
That’s when Moore and several others took to the streets marching with signs, trying to urge the congressman to change his mind. Voters also were encouraged to call his offices.
“It was like he closed the blinds and the curtains and said, ‘I’m not listening to them,’” Moore said.
“I believe the no vote I cast tonight was the right one, and a significant number of other Democrats joined me in casting that no vote,” Davis said Sunday night in a statement released after the late-night vote. “Going forward, I hope for the good of our country that this legislation ends up working and that my reservations are proved wrong. I joined many other Americans in hoping that Congress can move past this enormously divisive debate and get on with the business of strengthening our economy.”
Davis represents Alabama’s Seventh Congressional District in the center of the state. It includes a region called the Black Belt, which has some of the poorest counties in the Southeast and the nation.
A recent national study on county-by-county health rankings published by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation found that several counties in Davis’ district had high poverty, inadequate access to primary care doctors and a large numbers of uninsured residents.
Sumter, Hale and Greene counties had less than half the number of doctors recommended for their size populations, and 13 percent to 16 percent of the residents were uninsured, the survey showed.
“It’s not just the people in the Black Belt who are need of health care insurance; we’ve got people right here in Birmingham who don’t earn a living wage that allows them to buy insurance,” Moore said. Part of Birmingham also is in Davis’ district.
“Tom Joyner Morning Show” commentator Roland Martin spoke about Davis in a recent “Call Them Out” segment on his TV One show, “Washington Watch,” and questioned the congressman’s position that the bill is too big.
“He should have told President Obama. He’s been one of his biggest supporters. He campaigned across the country with him,” Martin said. “He was elected to represent people from his district in Congress, not a future position he may or may not get.”
Davis served as the president’s Alabama chairman and was one of the first to endorse him when he announced plans to run.
Now Davis is in a race for the Democratic nomination for governor. He has a war chest of more than $2 million leading up a June contest with Ron Sparks, the state commissioner of agriculture. Sparks is White and has garnered key endorsements from people such as former Birmingham Mayor Richard Arrington Jr.
Angela K. Lewis, a political scientist at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, said Davis’ position and subsequent vote on health care reform is causing some in his district to change their minds about supporting him for governor.
“People in his district are saying he threw them under the bus,” Lewis said.
Blacks make up about 25 percent of Alabama’s population. Most traditionally vote Democratic, but a majority in the state supported Sen. John McCain in the presidential election. The current governor, Bob Riley, is a Republican, and the Republican primary is attracting a lot of attention in the state.
Moore said no callers were supportive of Davis on her Monday night talk show. And Chris Coleman, a drive-time radio talk show host, said several callers on Monday were critical of Davis.
“Black people in America have a love affair with President Obama. Even if they get angry with him on one day, the next day, they’ll be okay,” Coleman told BlackAmericaWeb.com. “They want to know why Davis did this.”