Former Democratic congressman to speak at U.S. Republican convention

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama Thu Aug 16, 2012 3:53pm EDT

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BIRMINGHAM, Alabama (Reuters) - Four years after he seconded the presidential nomination of Barack Obama at the Democratic National convention, former Alabama Democratic Congressman Artur Davis will address the Republican Party's convention in Tampa to back Mitt Romney.

"The talk and inspiration moved so many of us four years ago, but unfortunately we haven't seen the action to back it up," Davis said in a statement released through the Republican National Convention on Thursday.

Once nicknamed the "Obama of Alabama," the former Democratic congressman ran unsuccessfully to become the first African-American governor of Alabama in 2010.

His defeat in the Democratic primary for the governorship was driven by opposition from the Alabama Democratic Conference, the oldest black political organization in the country, according to Joe Reed, its chairman. Davis lost to a white candidate who was endorsed by black leaders.

"He said he didn't want any black organization endorsements. He got the hell beat out of him, too," said Reed, who also serves as vice-chair for Minority Affairs for the Alabama Democratic Party.

Harvard-educated Davis described in his Obama nomination speech how he watched his first convention in a tiny motel room with his mother, homeless from a foreclosure on the family home.

His vote against Obama's sweeping overhaul of the U.S. healthcare system signaled his first leanings towards conservatism and a break from the man he campaigned for in 2008.

"Eighty-thousand people in his district would have benefited from that bill," said Bradley Davidson, executive director of the Alabama Democratic Party.

Crushed by his loss in the gubernatorial race, Davis left the state. He moved to Virginia, where he switched parties to become a Republican and stumped for the Tea Party movement, advocating tax cuts and smaller government.

In his statement, Davis expressed disappointment with the Obama administration.

"We were promised jobs and we got job-killing mandates and regulations. We were promised a fiscally responsible government, and we got trillion dollar deficits, debt that has never been seen, and small business burdened with new taxes and threatened with more taxes."

(Editing by David Adams and Vicki Allen)

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