BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- A Harvard-educated lawyer backed by pro-Israel donors beat five-term Rep. Earl Hilliard, who was supported by Arab Americans in a race that oddly brought Mideast politics into a poor Alabama district.
The victory by Artur Davis was tantamount to election since there is no Republican nominee in the district, which is 62 percent black and heavily Democratic.
Alabama Democrats also chose State Auditor Susan Parker in a runoff to face Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions in the fall. Elsewhere, South Carolina Republicans picked a wealthy former congressman to take on freshman Democratic Gov. Jim Hodges, and nominees were picked in four other congressional districts in South Carolina, Utah and Alabama.
But the contest between Hilliard and Davis drew the most attention.
Hilliard commercials portrayed Davis backers as rich whites, and an anti-Semitic smear sheet that surfaced before the primary was critical of Davis' links to Jewish contributors.
Davis said his overwhelming victory was a sign that "racial division and religious bigotry have no place in the 7th District."
"We are one people. We are one community, and anyone who comes into this city to divide us is going to be sent back home and that's what happened," he told raucous backers at a victory party.
Hilliard, 60, in 1992 became the first black elected to Congress from Alabama since Reconstruction. Davis, 34, also is black.
Hilliard blamed his first electoral loss on Davis' bigger war chest, funded in large part by out-of-state, pro-Israel donors.
"My opponent had a massive amount of money," Hilliard said. "I don't know what that means for the future for other persons who are similarly situated."
With 99 percent of precincts reporting, Davis had 52,357 votes, or 56 percent, and Hilliard had 41,049 votes, or 44 percent.
Hilliard was forced into the first runoff of his career after failing to win a majority in the primary earlier this month.
Davis, a former federal prosecutor, aired a series of stinging TV ads in which he criticized Hilliard's repeated ethics scrapes, saying he did little to help his district while lining his own pockets in Washington. He also accused Hilliard of being linked to terrorism.
Hilliard has said he supports creation of a Palestinian state and recently opposed a resolution supporting Israel's self-proclaimed war against terrorism. The stance won him support from Arab groups while his opponent had the backing of Jews and pro-Israel groups.
Davis raised more money than Hilliard, much of it from Jews in New York. Hilliard, who visited Libya in 1997, was backed by Arab donors and members of the Congressional Black Caucus.
Hilliard joins a growing list of incumbent congressman ousted this year. The others were Democrats Gary Condit of California, Frank Mascara of Pennsylvania and Tom Sawyer of Ohio, and GOP Rep. Brian Kerns of Indiana, who -- like Mascara -- lost in a race between incumbents forced by redistricting.
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