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Can Artur Davis Make History in Alabama?

One after another, speakers at the Democratic Governors Association meeting yesterday in Washington said how tricky 2010 would prove for just about anybody seeking to gain or hold office. One example is Alabama, where Republican Gov. Bob Riley is term-limited -- and a young, Harvard-educated, Democratic representative in Congress is seeking to replace him.

Should he win the Democratic primary and general election, Rep. Artur Davis would become the first African American governor in a state still dogged by its bleak civil rights history. Mr. Davis's polling shows that Alabama voters are increasingly willing to elect a black to state-wide office.

Still, he would be giving up a safe Congressional seat for what many consider a high-risk, though potentially history-making, venture. Mr. Davis has repeatedly held his current seat with at least three-fourths of the vote since coming to Congress in 2002. The district is 64% black.

On the other hand, though two of the last four Alabama governors have been Democrats, Barack Obama -- Mr. Davis's friend in law school -- did abysmally there, losing the state by 21 points after pretty much writing it off from the start.

"More than a few people have asked me: Why are you giving up a safe seat in the U.S. Congress to run in a pretty red state?" Mr. Davis said yesterday at the DGA event. "Something is stirring in the state of Alabama right now."

Mr. Davis said that in the 19 polls he has seen on the race since September 2007, "We have been ahead of or within the margin of error of every Republican in every poll."

For its part, the DGA less sanguinely lists Alabama as a second-tier pick-up opportunity for Democrats, along with Alaska, Georgia, Hawaii and Utah. Top-tier opportunities outlined yesterday by DGA Executive Director Nathan Daschle include Arizona, California, Connecticut, Florida, Minnesota, Nevada and Vermont.