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Progressives target Davis for challenge


Se. Don Davis


By Ginger Livingston
The Daily Reflector

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

A collection of progressive groups said several individuals have expressed interesting in challenging Pitt County’s state senator in 2020 because his vote helped overturn the governor’s veto of controversial legislation related to abortion.

However, none of the individuals who have reached out are ready to declare their candidacy, said Sarah Riddle, a spokeswoman with Planned Parenthood Votes South Atlantic.

“We have had a real outpouring of support from people who are ready to run,” Riddle said. None are ready to announce a potential candidacy.

Progressive groups are angry that Don Davis, a five-term state senator whose District 5 represents Pitt and Greene counties, was the lone senate Democrat to vote to override Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto of Senate Bill 359, legislation that would jail doctors who didn’t provide life-saving treatment to babies born alive after an abortion. Opponents said the bill is unnecessary because there’s no proof such a situation has occurred.

Davis voted for the original bill, along Sen. Ben Clark.

"Davis clearly demonstrated that he doesn't stand with doctors, women or his party,” said Paige Johnson, vice president of external affairs for Planned Parenthood Votes South Atlantic. “We're energized to join forces with our partners to identify a candidate who will stand up for women's health and protect abortion access in our state."

Sarah Preston, executive director of Lillian’s List, an organization that recruits women who support reproductive rights, said the Senate district can be won by a “progressive, pro-choice woman.”

“Anyone who votes against women and reproductive freedom is fair game for a challenge in 2020,” Preston said.

Charles “Sonny” McLawhorn, chairman of the Pitt County Democratic Party, said Davis contacted him prior to the April 29 vote to override Cooper’s veto and they spoke for about an hour. McLawhorn said it was a confidential conversation and would not discuss details.

“I did express my feelings, which were different from his position,” McLawhorn said. “I would vote for him again today. I am not going to turn my back on him because of one vote.”

McLawhorn said he was surprised to learn that an effort is underway to recruit a challenger. Davis’ vote goes against the beliefs of a majority of Pitt County Democrats, McLawhorn said, but there has to be room in both political parties for individuals who share differing opinions on issues.

“We no longer have to settle for someone because of the letter behind their name. We can actually identify and elect people who are guided by their progressive values rather than their own political aspirations,” said Tammy Brunner, recruitment director of LEAD NC, an organization that seeks to develop progressive political leaders.

“As an organization that led the historic recruitment of progressives in every legislative district in the state and elected a historic number of progressive women to the legislature, time is up for Don Davis and the archaic principles he stands for,” Brunner said.

Davis said he knew some people would be unhappy with his vote but he wants to shift the conversation to the children who are born every day across the state.

“In the final analysis, I voted my conscience, based on the facts as I understood them, as well as the numerous communications that came into my office,” Davis said in a written statement.

“As children grow up, I believe we must talk more about how to make sure each child has access to healthcare, the resources needed to succeed at school, and a pathway to a good paying job or career especially, in eastern North Carolina,” Davis said. “It is not good enough to talk about birth and not talk enough about how children grow up.”

Contact Ginger Livingston at glivingston@reflector.com or 252-329-9570.