Davis looks to inspire In address to GOP
BY KAREN SHUEY, Staff Writer
Artur Davis once was a rising star in the Democratic Party.
That was then.
Now, the former Alabama congressman who helped Barack Obama get into the White House will lend his support to Lancaster County Republicans.
At the group's May 9 spring dinner at Eden Resort, the new member of the GOP will discuss his journey toward the right and his ideas about how the Republican Party can reinvent itself.
Davis said that -- given his previous stances on pivotal Obama policies -- his departure from the Democrats didn't come as much of a surprise to most people.
He was the sole member of the Congressional Black Caucus to vote against Obama's health care-reform legislation in 2010. He also ran a relatively conservative campaign for the governorship of Alabama in 2010 but failed to win the Democratic primary.
Davis said he felt increasingly at odds with that party's platform.
"I left the Democrats when it became clear to me that there was no longer a real place for me," the center-right politician said in a phone interview from his Virginia home.
Lancaster County Republican Committee Chairwoman Ann Womble said Davis' past experience as a Democrat made him a perfect choice for keynote speaker.
"He represents the millions of disillusioned Americans who expected more from a president who campaigned on hope and change," she said.
Davis has been traveling the country talking to Republicans about how they can capitalize on what he believes is a damaged Democratic vision.
"There is a real opportunity for the Republican Party to bring in independent and soft Democrats, but we need to focus on the middle class," he said.
Davis said he will speak to local party leaders about reinvigorating the GOP by moving toward the realistic and humanistic goals of creating a more forward-looking, inclusive and innovative party.
Republicans, he said, have a tendency to get stuck in the past when they should be trying to solve today's problems on today's terms.
"I think a lot of Republicans believe that the only economic message that needs to be recited is 'less government and lower taxes.' The reality is that only begins the conversation with many Americans," he said.
Davis said that if Republicans want to be viewed as job creators, they must bring real ideas to the table that show how conservative principles spur upward mobility.
"The reality is that Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin were lost because of Republican weaknesses with working-class voters," he said.
While some in the party leadership have argued that the big take-away from the 2012 election is the need for a more sustained and committed outreach to minority voters, Davis argued that it all boils down to economics.
"As long as the country's most significant challenge is turning around the economy, voters are going to want to hear -- first and foremost -- about what economic policy each party offers," he said. "A stronger, better middle class is going to help minorities across the board."
Refocusing the GOP economic message will dominate his presentation to the party here, but the Harvard-educated lawyer said he may touch on other topics, such as immigration reform and the Affordable Care Act.
Joining Davis at the podium next week will be Republican Party of Pennsylvania Chairman Rob Gleason, who also will address the future of the party.
n Tickets to the spring fundraiser are available to the public for $75 and to committee members for $50 a person and $110 a couple. Tickets to the VIP reception are $100 a person and $150 a couple. Call GOP headquarters at 392-4165 for more information.