New South endorses Artur Davis, Lankster

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Ever since taking office 18 months ago, U.S. Rep. Artur Davis has found a way to garner support — even among the skeptics.

On Saturday, one of the state’s most prominent political organizations gave credence to the fact. The Alabama New South Coalition, headed by State Sen. Hank Sanders, endorsed Davis over Democratic challenger Albert Turner Jr.

Though polls and public opinion suggest Davis will have little trouble with Turner in the June 1 primary, many believed the New South endorsement would go to Turner because of his family’s history with the organization. His father, civil rights leader Albert Turner, was a founding member of New South.

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Davis, on the other hand, found New South to be one of his toughest critics just two years ago. The coalition put its powerful political influence behind incumbent Earl Hilliard. And shortly after Davis won the U.S. House seat from Hilliard, some New South members began discussion of opposing Davis in this year’s election.

Ultimately, Turner was the only one to challenge Davis for the seat.

“When we first got in office, I felt there would be a real challenge [from New South],” Davis said Saturday from New South’s conference in Montgomery. “A lot of people expected that I would have five or six opponents. That we were able to keep every major opponent out of this race must mean we’ve done an effective job so far.”

Thomas Moore, the Marengo County chairman for New South, said Davis’ professional approach to political office helped secure the endorsement.

“I think Artur Davis, with his sincerity, has the ability to relate to and unite people,” Moore said. “He won the hearts and minds of the organization.”

Depicting the New South vote as a landslide, however, wouldn’t be accurate. Even Davis said there were key members of the screening committee who helped secure the nomination for the incumbent.

“Judge [John] England’s support was pivotal for us,” Davis said Saturday.

The road to gaining New South’s endorsement took a lot of work, Davis admitted. He and Sanders, who weren’t known to be political allies during the early days of Davis’ tenure, have apparently found some common ground.

“We’ve done a lot of outreach,” Davis said. “Sen. Sanders and I are building a strong relationship, and I’m glad we’ve been able to do that.”

According to Moore, Davis has stood up for the same people New South seeks to represent.

“There are a couple of key issues that Congressman Davis took the lead on,” Moore said. “One was the land grant issue… Another was the child tax credit issue.”

Along with the New South endorsement, Davis also secured the endorsement of the Alabama Democratic Conference, also a predominantly black organization that endorsed Hilliard in the 2002 election.

Lankster gets endorsements

Barrown Lankster, challenging current District Attorney Greg Griggers in the 17th Judicial Circuit, also received the endorsements of New South and the ADC during Saturday’s meetings.

When asked for comment about the endorsements, Lankster said he did not want to make a statement.

“I sought the endorsement and got it,” Lankster said. “Right now, I’m going to reserve comment on it.”