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Rep. Davis won't challenge Sessions in '08

By Ben Evans
Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON — The challenge would be stiff enough for Democratic Rep. Artur Davis if he tried to become the first black elected to the Senate from Alabama.

But how about making the run on an Alabama ballot with John Kerry or Hillary Clinton as his party's presidential nominee?

The state's voters haven't favored the Democratic nominee for president since 1976. And with White House campaigns already taking shape, Davis said Monday he will not challenge Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions in 2008.

Instead, he is looking toward a 2010 campaign either for governor, a post Republican Gov. Bob Riley will be vacating, or for the state's other Senate seat, which is held by Republican Richard Shelby.

"The 2008 campaign cycle is the wrong time for me to seek higher office," the former federal prosecutor said in a statement Monday. "A statewide campaign would divert from my new responsibilities ... and from the new opportunities for my district and my state as a member of the majority party."

Davis, 39, said last year he was considering a run against Sessions, 60, a former state attorney general who won his second Senate term in 2002 with almost 60 percent of the vote.

After evaluating his prospects in recent weeks, Davis said he was convinced that a run against Sessions would be difficult but winnable.

But he said he decided against it after Democratic leaders named him to the powerful Ways and Means Committee last month and after determining that campaign obligations such as fundraising would eat up too much of his time as Democrats work to deliver on their new congressional majority.

Davis also said a Senate race would distract him from "actively helping" a candidate in the upcoming presidential campaign.

Davis' spokesman, Corey Ealons, said the Democrat would explore a Senate or gubernatorial bid in 2010, although Davis would probably not challenge Shelby if Shelby ran for re-election, he said.

Shelby, 72, who was held his seat since 1986, has said he intends to run again.

Although Alabama has elected blacks to lower statewide offices, Davis would be the first black senator or governor from Alabama. He has said he does not think race would play a major role in a campaign.

He took encouragement from the strong Senate campaign in Tennessee last year by former Democratic Rep. Harold Ford Jr., who also is black. Ford narrowly lost that race to Republican Sen. Bob Corker.

But Alabama has not sided with a Democratic presidential candidate in 30 years, and Davis has said potential Democratic contenders such as Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York would probably hurt him in Alabama.

Sessions declined to comment on Davis' announcement.

Davis is viewed as an emerging star in Washington. Democratic leaders last month awarded him a seat on Ways and Means, one of the most sought-after committee assignments. The panel oversees tax policy as well as major federal programs such as Medicare and Social Security.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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