This is the third in our three part series on Muslim candidates in the November Detroit elections–this time focusing on Reggie Reg Davis, a candidate for the Charter Revision Commission. Mr. Davis is a former radio personality who has spoken out on some major issues in Detroit politics, namely the â€œcouncil-by-districtâ€ issue of whether Detroit city councilmembers should all be selected at-large as they currently are, or instead if they should have spots apportioned by district as is the case with every other major city in the United States.
Farmington–October 7–â€Why at this level? Why not higher?â€ These are the most pressing questions to me after having spoken with Reggie Reg Bilal Davis, candidate for Charter Revision Commission.
After only a few interviews with politicians one gets a sense of who has the energy and charisma to win an election–usually a brief look at the numbers and a 15 minute meeting are enough to give a person a sense of whether this interviewee is a viable candidate or not.
In this case, Reggie Reg Bilal Davis is someone who has catapulted to the top of the heap that is running for Charter Commission, currently he says ranked at number three among the other candidates–he was eightth after the primary and has climbed since then–and nine will win. The only people ahead of him in the polls are career politicians.
He is a known radio personality with decades of experience broadcasting across Detroitâ€™s airwaves. He explains, â€œI took shahada in 1997–I was famous before then. Iâ€™ve been Reggie Reg for 27 years. I went through Catholicism, I was baptized as a child;â€ he explains further that he has associated also with Presbyterians, Jehovahâ€™s Witnesses, but â€œI accepted Islam because I loved it–it is the most beautiful.â€
He has a sharp mind and thinks fast on his feet. When I called he was able to juggle multiple calls without losing his train of thought. In staccato bursts he personally responded to the human harvest of a 20,000 person robo-call program he has been using. â€œHello… Hello… This is Reggie Reg Davis… Iâ€™m not running for City Council Iâ€™m running for Charter Commission… In the charter all you have to be is 18 and a citizen of the city and you can be elected… I donâ€™t get paid a dime…. Criminals in office… I donâ€™t want to sit shoulder to shoulder with the people who get elected to city council… all you need is to be 18 and a citizen… we need standards.
Most of what he says sound like the results from a sharp mind, not the prepared made-for-TV gloss that politicians usually use to avoid important issues and secure elections. Still, some of his slogans sound at first like the shibboleths uttered hopefully like magic entry words, by people seeking office. â€œSomewhere God got taken out of the equation and I want to put Him back in the equation.â€ But the words in Mr. Davisâ€™ case are perhaps sincere.
Compared to other politicians, the only things that might be missing are some of the gentle diplomacy and gloss (which are sometimes as harmful as beneficial) and the overconfidence that politicians seem required to exude coming into an election. But perhaps that is good that Mr. Davis is missing those qualities. Humbly, he said to me, â€œI donâ€™t know if Iâ€™m going to win. Itâ€™s the will of God.â€ Not something ordinary to hear from someone polling in third place where nine people will win.
Constant interruptions never fazed him as he spoke to me on the phone–I didnâ€™t count but there were probably 15 other people who got routed to him on his other cell phone while I was interviewing him, and with each one he had the energy and the staccato speech of a prize fighter, words instead of punches, all the while carrying on an interview with me and answering intelligently and without appearing to rely on canned answers, without visibly dodging questions.
After five years of talking to political candidates, or even after two or three interviews, a reporter really does get a gut sense of whether a candidates he meets are viable or not, or have the charisma and energy to be successful politicians, and so in the case of this interview the main question becomes why such a small position? Mr. Davis has the political skills and name recognition to seek federal office, and also state office, and probably almost any local level office. Not to mention his name recognition. Which begs the question… is it too much to hope that he honestly wants to serve the community? That he honestly believes that by amending the city charter he will redress Detroitâ€™s all-too-evident culture of corruption, and begin to rebuild the city?
Almost certainly Mr. Davis is going to win a spot on the charter commission. The only questions that remain are whether he among nine other people will be able to achieve his aims, and what position he will seek next, and whether when his trajectory meets with the success it will almost certainly find in future elections–whether when that happens his pure motives and sincerity will survive the powerful incentives that strain the character of career politicians. I for one will be watching, with interest.