ETA: This was another in a long line of well-organized and informative events sponsored by the Over the Mountain Democrats. Mooncat and countrycat from Left in Alabama were there too — see coverage here.
There was a good crowd for the OTM Dems gubernatorial forum tonight. My take? Artur Davis was the clear winner. He was relaxed, confident and well-prepared. Ron Sparks came across as angry and defensive.
Davis supports a citizens’ convention to rewrite Alabama’s outdated 1901 constitution. Sparks wants to let the legislature do an article-by-article rewrite, which is never going to happen. Even if there were the will, there isn’t enough time in the legislative session to get it done. Davis wants diversified economic development; Sparks is putting all his money on legalizing and taxing the hell out of gambling. Both of them oppose marriage equality, but Sparks was the only one who felt the need to assert that “marriage is between one man and one woman” (and let me say how much I appreciated the dead silence from the crowd as they went through their verbal gymnastics explaining how some people are more equal than others).
And, when the electability question came up, Sparks played the race card, basically saying that Davis can’t win because he’s black and we’d better vote for Sparks instead if we want a Democratic governor. “We know how Alabama is.” You know what? He may be right, and what a disgusting thought that is, but he chose the wrong crowd for that dogwhistle.
I went into the forum undecided. I saw one man fixated on a single idea to shore up revenue and fund education in the state, and I saw another who has a long-term vision of what this state can be and the smarts to back it up. I have my differences with Davis — his lack of support for LGBT equality frustrates me no end, and I don’t like the weaseling on health care reform — but Sparks sounded for all the world like a Republican.
If I had to make a decision tonight, there’s no question who would get my vote, even if I have to hold my nose a little while I cast it.