Last night, Representative Artur Davis opened his campaign headquarters in downtown Montgomery. Davis, Democratic prospect for governor, opened the HQ to work in conjunction with his operations already established in Birmingham.
The office is in the heart of downtown on Monroe Street, neighbored on one side by Bobby Bright's office and on the other a row of abandoned storefronts. The entrance was decorated patriotically with red, white and blue balloons and signs heralding the man within.
The festivities started at 5pm. Inside, there were sign-in sheets and pamphlets and yard signs and more balloons bobbing, slightly, beneath the AC. The snack table was topped with fresh veggies and local fare like legendary Chris' Hotdogs and Liger's Cake. Down the other wall was the refreshment table, stocked tastefully with sodas, light wines and beer.
In the back corner, next to an enormous balloon arbor, was the musical duo, Stan and the Man, set to churn out old school favorites at a moderate volume.
Before Davis' arrival, I was able to mingle with local notables, like Doris Crenshaw, President and CEO of the Southern Youth Leadership Development Institute, and Davis staffers like Political Director Hill Carmichael and Deputy Communications Director Anna Ruth Williams. All were very welcoming and excited about the campaigns possibilities.
After a while, once a couple of wine drinks and beers had made their way out, the crowd loosened up and their light roar overtook the band. And finally Artur Davis arrived.
On coming in, he was immediately swarmed by workers, supporters and local media and a blast of applause from the rest of the crowd. After a brief statement to the broadcast media, he made his way through the crowd, shaking hands and smiling all the way to the front of the room.
Former Lieutenant Governor Jere Beasley took the microphone first, hushing the anxious crowd immediately. "This effort tonight is just the start of a memorable campaign," he said. "We have a candidate who has a vision for this state that's unparalleled for my time." He spoke for a moment, applauding Davis' efforts over the years and the immense change this election could mean for the state.
After a few words, Artur Davis took the mic. It was the first time I'd heard him speak. And, as my mother had assured me, he spoke with passion and conviction.
"We are on the way to having the Alabama we always dreamed about," he said, arousing another boom of applause.
He spoke on the difficulties of being a Democrat in today's political arena. "These are supposedly not the best of times for Democrats," he said. "Don't buy into this idea that this is not the moment."
He talked about the struggles Alabama has had in keeping it's aspiring youth in the state. "We know we're losing our young people left and right," he said. "Can we build an Alabama worthy of our people?"
He discussed briefly the bad reputation of politics, saying "I'm tired of politics being something people run from."
"If we leave politics to the shameless, we will get a politics not capable of lifting us up in the 21st Century," he continued. "It is time to be bold."
He continued for a moment, discussing the divisions in Alabama's cities, specifically Montgomery's east and west sides, the Black Belt and Jefferson County, and the necessity of this election for the benefit of Alabama's youth.
He finished by introducing his wife, Tara Davis, and mother, whom he credited with introducing him to politics during a 1977 visit to Montgomery, and a list of hard-working staffers. With a wave returned by applause, the acoustic music started back up and he returned to shaking hands through the crowd.
I was lucky enough to get to meet him and shake his hand and talk for a moment and then we left. It was a beautiful evening, created on the backs of dedicated workers and volunteers and a team morale unlike any other campaign in the capitol city. One can foresee that this is only the beginning for Artur Davis and his incredible staff.