News from the Tennessee Valley Opinion


Artur Davis could be like Jim Martin

As U.S. Rep. Artur Davis decides whether to run against U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions in 2008, he might want to ring up Jim Martin and compare notes.

Mr. Martin, now 88, almost achieved what Mr. Davis aspires to do. In 1962, Mr. Martin mounted the first serious Republican U.S. Senate campaign in Alabama since Reconstruction. He ran against longtime incumbent Democrat Lister Hill and nearly won. Mr. Hill received 50.9 percent — 6,019 more votes than Mr. Martin.

So Mr. Martin lost that year, but he set the stage for future success by Republican candidates in Alabama. In 1964, with conservative Barry Goldwater as the Republican presidential nominee, the Republicans elected five of Alabama’s eight congressmen. Mr. Martin was one of them.

He served only two years, then lost a hopeless campaign for governor against Democrat Lurleen B. Wallace. Mr. Martin ran again for the Senate but never succeeded. His most recent public office was state conservation commissioner.

Forty-four years after 1962, Republicans hold most statewide and congressional offices in Alabama. Mr. Davis of Birmingham is one of two Democratic congressmen. But the pendulum may be starting to swing. Democrats captured the offices of lieutenant governor and chief justice in the Nov. 7 election, and they took control of both houses of the national Congress.

Mr. Davis — a lawyer with two Harvard degrees who worked four years as an assistant U.S. attorney — has earned a good reputation in the U.S. House. He is well-qualified to run for the Senate.

However, you would have to call his chances slim as a Democrat running against a popular Republican incumbent. Also, sad to say, his being black would probably give some voters pause.

But a Senate race by Mr. Davis might hasten the days when statewide races will be more competitive between the parties and when skin color will not matter.

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