17TH CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT Withdrawn candidate Davis says UAW local dealt big blow
The former candidate couldn't believe he was called a liar by a fellow union official.
By DAVID SKOLNICK
VINDICATOR POLITICS WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- Former labor leader Warren Davis began to wonder if he should remain a candidate in the 17th Congressional District race when the United Auto Workers, his union for 48 years, yanked his endorsement for the seat.
But Davis said the real devastating blow came from Jim Graham, president of UAW Local 1112 at the Lordstown General Motors assembly plant, who called him a liar in public.
"That shocked me, particularly after having spent over 30 years with them at the bargaining table, negotiations, grievances and strike negotiations," Davis said. "I never expected that. It was extremely difficult to read what he said after all these years."
Davis' withdrawal from the race was announced Friday.
Davis, 67, of Akron, knew he had an uphill battle running as an independent candidate. That was made more difficult, he said, when the international UAW board eliminated his region in June, thus making his job as its director obsolete, and also taking back its endorsement of his congressional candidacy.
Still perceived support
Davis said he "naively" believed the rank and file members at the local UAW unions would still support his candidacy. After all, he said, several top local UAW officials, including Graham, were on hand supporting and praising him when he filed petitions to run as an independent May 6.
"I thought the local people would stay with me," Davis said. "That really stung me and really surprised me. I don't like to whine, but I counted on the trade unionists to support me. Obviously, without the trade unions, it was going to be a struggle."
Graham could not be reached Friday to respond to Davis' comments.
At a July press conference to give the UAW endorsement to Democrat Timothy J. Ryan of Niles, Graham and other union officials said Davis was deceitful for going back on his word to honor the union's mandatory retirement policy.
Davis "outright lied to the international union. If a guy lies to his people, what's he going to do to his constituency?" said Graham in July.
Davis, who spent 19 years as UAW's Region 2 director, was expected to retire in June, but instead sought and won re-election. The next day, the UAW eliminated Region 2 and rescinded its endorsement.
The other reasons for Davis' withdrawal are his ongoing fight to prove he is the victim of age discrimination, to reinstate Region 2 and to be restored as its director.
"All my energy is in that fight," he said.
Political observers said that Davis had no chance to win the race, but that his presence would have taken votes away from Ryan.
Davis agrees with the assessment that his withdrawal will help Ryan. Davis has no plans to support any of the other candidates.
Also running, besides Ryan, are Republican Ann Womer Benjamin of Aurora and former U.S. Rep. James A. Traficant Jr. of Poland, who is serving an eight-year sentence in federal prison.
Davis has been politically active, serving on the Democratic National Committee and as chairman of the Ohio UAW Political Action Council.
But those experiences didn't prepare him for the congressional race, and the political fallout over his decision to fight his union.
"I got a ground's eye view of politics I didn't have before," he said. "It's completely different as a candidate. I was used to focusing on issues, instead of dealing with people who are more concerned with personalities."