MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — The chairman of the state's oldest black political organization said U.S. Rep. Artur Davis can't win the governor's race in November because the black congressman has rejected black voters in the Democratic primary.
"You've told blacks already I don't want the black vote. That's your base vote. That's the base vote of any Democrat who runs for office," Joe Reed, chairman of the Alabama Democratic Conference, said at a news conference Wednesday.
More on Artur Davis: Will U.S. Congressman be the First Black Governor of Alabama?
Davis, who is trying to become Alabama's first black governor, announced in April that he would not seek the endorsement of Reed's ADC or two other predominantly black political organizations. He said black voters need no permission from the political organizations and no sample ballots to decide who to support for governor.
On Wednesday, Davis noted that Reed's remarks about him were the same Reed used when he opposed Barack Obama for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008.
"Ron Sparks and Joe Reed have joined forces behind the idea that a black cannot be elected governor in Alabama. Joe Reed once stood for the proposition that race should not preclude any Alabamian from holding political office. Now, as America changes, Joe Reed keeps going backwards," said Davis, who was Obama's state campaign chairman.
The Alabama Democratic Conference is holding its 50th anniversary celebration in Montgomery, with the event concluding at 5:30 p.m. Saturday with the announcement of its endorsements. Davis has declined to appear, which means he can't get the group's support. It also means that an organization that helped end all-white governments in Alabama will be celebrating its successes without the first serious, well-funded black candidate for governor.
But that's nothing new. Davis won his congressional seat in 2002 without the ADC's support.
Reed said Sparks will still have to appear this weekend to get an endorsement because it's not automatic.
"I will be there with my best suit on," Sparks said in an interview later.
He said he wants to be the governor of everyone in Alabama and that means not writing off any group of voters.
Black voters traditionally make up nearly half of the turnout for the Democratic primary and about 30 percent of the turnout for the general election in November.
Reed, who has led the ADC throughout its 50 years, said Davis has run his campaign with an eye toward getting white support in the general election rather than securing the Democratic nomination.
"He's gambled on the fact that he'd rather go for the white vote than the black vote," he said.
Race has become an everyday topic in the Democratic primary for governor.
On Tuesday, Davis denounced a letter distributed by a Sparks supporter, longtime Democrat Ed Kahalley Sr. of Mobile. In the letter, Kahalley said a Democratic candidate must couple 20 percent of the white vote with the traditionally Democratic black vote to win in November.
"Can Davis get 20 percent of the white vote in November? No, but Ron Sparks can," he wrote.
He also wrote that Davis' feuding with Reed and other black leaders will hurt the black vote he needs.
"Black voters will listen to their black leadership, before they listen to Artur Davis who is running on a Republican agenda," he wrote.
Davis said the letter was a throwback to Alabama's past.
"A letter that invokes race as a disqualification for office is an ugly, offensive reminder of a mindset that no Alabamian should want to repeat," Davis said.
Sparks said Wednesday he had nothing to do with the letter.
"This campaign is not about race. It's about his voting record and my record as commissioner and our visions for Alabama," Sparks said.
Sparks has drawn support from the predominantly black Alabama New South Coalition. Another predominantly black group, the Jefferson County Citizens Coalition, has not announced its endorsements.
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.