A congressman seeking to become Alabama’s first black governor today lost to a white Democratic primary opponent who had garnered support from the state’s four major black political groups.
Agriculture Commissioner Ron Sparks won the Democratic primary with 62% of the vote to Artur Davis’s 38%, with 96% of the precincts reporting.
The state’s traditional civil rights organisations backed Mr Sparks after Mr Davis voted against President Barack Obama’s federal health care overhaul.
But Mr Davis, a Harvard lawyer who led Mr Obama’s campaign in the state in 2008, had endorsements from Republican John Lewis, a civil rights pioneer from Alabama, and Mobile’s first black mayor, Sam Jones.
The chairman of the black Alabama Democratic Conference, Joe Reed, said Mr Davis was hurt by refusing to seek the endorsements of African-American groups and by voting against the federal health care plan.
Mr Sparks said he went after every vote, and his call for a state lottery to help fund education proved popular with primary voters. Mr Davis conceded in Birmingham, where he said he would support Sparks in the general election.
Seven Republican candidates for governor were competing in their party’s primary yesterday, with the top vote-winners expected to go to a run-off on July 13.
The health care overhaul was also an issue in Alabama’s other big race, where Republican voters in the 5th Congressional district ousted first-term US Rep Parker Griffith, a former Democrat who switched to the Republican Party in December.
Madison County Commissioner Mo Brooks won with slightly more than 50% of the vote in a three-candidate field. He had tea party support and the backing of local Republican leaders still bitter over losing to Mr Griffith in 2008, when he was still a Democrat.
Primaries were also held in Mississippi and New Mexico, where Susana Martinez, a prosecutor from southern New Mexico, won the Republican nomination for governor and will face Democrat Diane Denish in a general election race to decide who becomes New Mexico’s first woman governor.