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N.C. Democratic Congressman Davis votes with Republicans

By Cash Michaels, Peacemaker Senior Contributor / July 29, 2023

North Carolina First District Democratic Congressman Don Davis of Pitt County, an African American, is making no bones about where he stands politically.

The Snow Hill native, minister and former United States Air Force commissioned officer may have taken over former Rep. G. K. Butterfield’s congressional office when he was elected in 2022, but Davis is cutting a different path from the politically progressive Butterfield. That was made clear earlier this month when Davis, a member of the House Committee on Armed Services, was one of a handful of House Democrats voting with conservative Republicans in support of a new defense budget that was loaded with “culture war” amendments.

Don Davis

Davis’ Democratic colleagues call the $880 billion NDAA (National Defense Authorization Act) for Fiscal Year 2024 an “extreme bill” because beyond providing funding for the U.S. military, as it is supposed to do, the ratified measure bans funding of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives; reimbursing travel costs for women service members in need of an abortion; and any display of the LBGTQ Pride flags.

Those amendments were sponsored by conservative Congressman Chip Roy of Texas, who has a well-known record of opposing any issues the right-wing describes as “woke.” But even though Republicans in the U.S. House have a slim majority to pass any measure they please, Rep. Davis, a Democrat, joined three other Democrats in supporting Congressman Roy’s anti-woke amendments, and ultimately the final version of the NDAA.

Why would the first-term Rep. Davis, 51, come anywhere near a right-wing political firebrand like Roy? We asked his congressional office in Washington, D.C. by email last week why Davis was one of only four Democrats to support the anti-DEI, anti-women’s choice, and anti-LBGTQ amendments to the NDAA, but got no response by press time.

Rep. Roy has sponsored some anti-critical race theory bills in the recent past, as well. Davis has opposed anti-CRT measures while in the N.C. State Senate, but that could change given his recent vote against DEI initiatives in the NDAA budget.

But research into Rep. Davis’ political background shows that while he is one of seven Democratic congresspeople representing North Carolina in the U.S. House, and one of three African American members of that delegation, Davis is perhaps the most moderate politically, meaning it’s hard to be sure where he stands on traditional Democratic issues.

Having served in the North Carolina Senate before running for Butterfield’s First District congressional seat in 2022, Davis had already established a centrist track record, voting against his party to defund Planned Parenthood, supporting several anti-abortion measures, and even obstructing some of Gov. Cooper’s agenda.
In 2015, then state Sen. Davis voted to support then Republican Gov. Pat McCrory’s anti-abortion agenda. In 2017 and 2018, Davis voted for budgets that allotted at least $1 million for religious anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers, later switching gears to support Gov. Cooper’s veto of those budgets.

In 2019, Davis was one of two Democratic state senators to vote for Republican “born alive” legislation, making it a felony “not to treat a baby born in the course of a late term abortion as a person.” Gov. Cooper vetoed the measure because existing law already protected newborns.

Still, Davis was the only Democrat to vote to override Cooper’s veto.

Ironically, given his N.C. legislative track record, Davis’ congressional campaign insisted that he supports the “fundamental right” of a woman to choose an abortion, and would codify Roe v. Wade while in Congress.

“In Congress, I will fight tooth-and-nail to protect abortion rights and women’s healthcare,” Rep. Davis declared on Twitter after the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision had been leaked last year.

Rep. Don Davis may also have another reason for being a Republican-light centrist Democrat – his congressional district.

The First Congressional District, as presently constituted, consists of 19 counties stretching from the northeastern part of North Carolina from the Virginia border, through several counties of the Inner Banks and the Research Triangle.

Many of those counties, like Bertie, Halifax and Northhampton are primarily rural with poor economies and older populations, making the district decidedly more conservative-leaning thanks to the legislature’s latest redistricting. It’s one of the reasons why the previous First District congressman, Butterfield, decided not to run for reelection.

Davis, also a member of the House Committee on Agriculture, is considered one of four vulnerable Democrats Republicans feel they can successfully target in the 2024 elections thanks to a May N.C. Supreme Court decision allowing the GOP to draw partisan gerrymanders, which may explain why Davis is playing it so safe in Congress.

Legislative Republicans plan to redraw congressional districts in a few weeks, meaning that Democrat Congressman Don Davis is likely to remain as politically moderate as possible to keep his seat when he is challenged


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Since 1967, the Carolina Peacemaker has served as North Carolina’s leading news weekly with a national reputation. Founded by Dr. John Kilimanjaro, the newspaper is published by Carolina Newspaper, Inc.

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