Sparks, you may recall, attracted Chuck Schumer's attention after denizens of Daily Kos suggested he might be a good Senate candidate after two terms as Agriculture Commissioner. He's popular, he's run on a platform that includes a lot of stuff that progressive like, so why not give it a shot, right?
Sparks declined to run, because State Senator Vivian Figures, who is African-American, also ran, and Sparks, who is white, didn't want to get into a primary that might have racial overtones (news reports suggested that had the primary field been cleared, he would have run). Fair enough.. The Republican who ran against Harold Washington wasn't a racist, but once he got close enough to winning, he let an awful lot of racist folks get close to him. Bill and Hillary Clinton have incredibly good records on race relations—Stan Greenberg thinks that Clinton viewed overcoming racial divisions as the underlying mission of his Presidency—and yet they were accused of playing the race card repeatedly during the primary. I can see not wanting to
But now Sparks is running for Governor. After Artur Davis, who like Figures is African-American, has already entered the primary. At first blush, it looks like Sparks was just looking for an excuse to avoid running for Senate. Which, let's face it, is a much more grueling and risky process in exchange for a much smaller reward. The governor gets to go to the Auburn-Bama game every year and live in a nice mansion in Montgomery gratis, spending relatively little time raising money for a reelection he's very likely to win. Senators have to shuttle back and forth to DC every week and spend an absurd amount of time fundraising, especially when they represent a Red state and fear their reelection prospects (compare the reelect rates of first-term governors to first-term Senators). Between Sebelius, Napolitano, and now Sparks, Democrats have lost three of their better candidates for upcoming Senate elections. Not good.