Davis kicks off campaign, takes shots at 'forces' in Alabama
Ruben Studdard, the soulful winner of the second season of "American Idol," joined Davis for the event in Linn Park, which included music, food and a few anti-Davis protesters.
Davis, a Birmingham Democrat, toured the state in February to announce he was running, but his kickoff event comes the first week candidates can begin to raise money for 2010. A diverse crowd of more than 500 people attended the event and were treated to one song by Studdard, a former Grammy nominee. He sang his single "Flying Without Wings," which he dedicated to Davis.
But unlike Studdard, who was coaxed by a friend into auditioning for "American Idol," Davis has been aiming for Alabama's highest office for years. His announcement he was running for governor had been for more than a year by political observers in the state.
Some people are not as excited to see Davis seeking another office.
Protesters held up signs aligning Davis with former President George W. Bush and big business; saying he did not represent Jefferson County well during his four terms in the U.S. House; and saying they were tired of his speeches.
Using a theme similar to his ally and fellow Harvard Law School graduate, President Barack Obama, Davis said his campaign will be about change.
For too long, the candidate said, "forces" with "old ideas" in the state have said what Alabama is not capable of accomplishing.
"This will not be a campaign heavy on promises," he said, but gave one to the people in attendance. "Alabama is ready for the 21st Century."
After his speech, Davis would not specify which "forces" he was referring to, but said some readers of the newspaper might know. He said they are from different political persuasions.
"This campaign will be about changing Alabama’s mindset," he said.
Davis, a Montgomery native, has said he is not the establishment candidate and there have been talks about other prominent Democrats entering the race since Lt. Gov. Jim Folsom Jr. said he will run for reelection and not for governor.
During his speech, Davis said his administration would not pit young adults against children or K-12 against higher education.
People in Alabama expect football teams to be in the top 25 and Davis said they should have the same standards for public education.
"Forty-two isn't good enough," he said.
Again echoing Obama, Davis said he would need people for more than the next 18 months of the campaign. He said he would need them for the four years of his administration. People need to be mobilized to reform this state and Davis said he would "constantly campaign" to break barriers.
He said he would be a pro-business governor, which he said equates to being pro-education. Being pro-business, Davis said, does not mean a candidate must be anti-union and anti-environment.
"I'm not going to raise taxes on individuals," the congressman said, but added some out-of-state corporate landowners need to "pay their fair share."
When asked how he might be able to accomplish ethics reform or tax those companies when some other governors have been unsuccessful, Davis said he must be the "persuader-in-chief."
Davis's campaign goals include ethics reform, creating a cabinet-level position to help with economic development in struggling rural counties, raising the state's mandatory school attendance age to 18, and supporting charter schools. He said he would call legislators back to Montgomery for a special session to address ethics reform soon after taking office.
The congressman said his ethics plan is the most sweeping ethics reform ever proposed in Alabama. He wants to eliminate all gifts to lawmakers.
State Rep. Thad McClammy, D-Montgomery, was in attendance, wearing a "Davis 2010" sticker. He said he was there to "support a kid out of the neighborhood." The legislator said he is very proud of the Montgomery native, who was raised by a single mother.
"We appreciate what he has done in his career to this point and he has great potential," McClammy said.
He also applauded Davis for spending as much time in some of the poor rural counties in his district as he does in Jefferson County.
"He looks at the needs of people — not how many are there," McClammy said. "He goes where the needs are."