ASHEVILLE — North Carolina District 11 congressional candidate Moe Davis is vying to represent Western North Carolina in Washington, D.C. this November on the Democratic ticket.
The retired Air Force Colonel and former chief prosecutor at Guantanamo Bay, as well as the former director of the Air Force Judiciary, has had a career unmatched by most, and he is looking to add to his extensive national service record with hopes of representing the district in Congress.
Before going on to work as a law professor at Howard University and serve as a national security expert for Congress, Davis began his career in North Carolina. Raised in Shelby, Davis was one of the first graduates of Appalachian State’s Criminal Justice program in 1980. At the time, he lived near Seven Devils and worked as a bail bondsman in Watauga County.
Davis completed his Juris Doctor Degree in 1983 from North Carolina Central University School of Law and passed the bar exam shortly after. It was around this time that Davis decided to join the Air Force. Davis said his decision to join the military was strongly influenced by the passing of his father, who became fully disabled in an Army training accident at Fort Bragg in World War II.
“(My father) was a 100-percent disabled veteran, commander of the Legion Post in Shelby and was really proud of his service. I never heard my dad complain. He grew up in Rutherford County, he left there a healthy young man and came back disabled, and I never heard him gripe about it. He passed away a week or two after I got my bar results back, so I felt like I owed it to him (to join the military),” Davis said.
Davis thought he would serve the initial four-year enlistment, but his short-term plan turned into a 25-year career. His first opponent was Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who was serving as a defense attorney in the Air Force at that time. Davis would later represent the Air Force in Supreme Court cases, work with Ken Starr (former Solicitor General who investigated President Bill Clinton) and lead investigations into the Air Force Academy sexual assault scandal in 2003.
Davis would accept the “once in a lifetime opportunity” as the chief prosecutor at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, serving in the position from Sept. 2005 to Oct. 2007. According to Davis, 779 men were taken there initially, while about 40 detainees remain there today under the Trump administration.
“If you recall, that was back when we were told that they were all the worst of the worst, that they were kind of men that would chew through the hydraulic line of the airplane on the way to Guantanamo just to kill Americans,” Davis said. “My job was to develop the cases for potential prosecution of the ones of that group whom we had evidence of the commission of war crimes.”
Davis said that there were 90 men out of the group that the military had sufficient evidence to prosecute. However, to the surprise of the Bush administration, the military attorneys that were defending the detainees “zealously” defended them and took some cases all the way to the Supreme Court.
Davis recalled the case of Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, in which the Supreme Court ruled 5-3 in defense of Hamdan, Osama Bin Laden’s former driver. The ruling declared that the trials under the existing Guantanamo military commission were illegal under US law and the Geneva Convention. In response to the ruling, Congress passed the Military Commissions Act, which Davis worked on with Sens. Graham and John McCain. The Supreme Court would later rule in Boumediene v. Bush that the MCA was an unconstitutional suspension of the detainee’s right to habeas corpus.
Nevertheless, by the time of the Supreme Court’s ruling, Davis was already out as the detention camp’s chief prosecutor. In 2007, Davis resigned from his post, taking a moral stance against the government’s use of torture practices in order to obtain evidence.
“It wasn’t that I didn’t believe they should be prosecuted. For instance, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who planned the 9/11 terror attacks, I had no qualms at all about prosecuting him, but what my objection was was using evidence in their prosecution that was the result of torture. In his cases, for example, there is ample evidence of his guilt without using anything he’s ever said in our custody. So it wasn’t necessary to use tortured evidence, but people above me had a different opinion,” Davis said.
In 2009, Davis again took a stance on the executive branch’s handling of Guantanamo prosecutions, this time with the Obama administration. When Davis’s op-ed appeared in the The Wall Street Journal criticizing the administration for backtracking on its original stance, Davis was fired from his role as a senior specialist in national security for the Congressional Research Service. Davis challenged the dismissal on the grounds that he had a right to free speech as a federal employee. Davis ultimately won a settlement in his suit.
On the issues
Davis moved to Asheville in 2019 after retiring from the federal government following a stint as a judge for the Department of Labor. Davis was hoping to challenge Mark Meadows for the congressional seat this November before Meadows accepted the role as White House Chief of Staff.
Davis, a lifelong Democrat, joined the party partly due to his father also being a Democrat. In the 1976 election, Davis casted his first vote for President Jimmy Carter.
“I looked at (the race) and thought, ‘I spent over 30 years of my life defending democracy and the country.’ In my view, the path that we’re on is not sustainable, and I felt like I couldn’t sit back and watch it slip away,” Davis said.
Davis personally uses the services of Veterans Affairs and would like to serve on the Veterans Affairs Committee if elected. Davis is against the proposed privatization of the VA hospital and wants to ensure that veterans receive the benefits they are promised. Davis wants to ensure that the VA is fully staffed and fully funded and that it has access to the resources it needs.
In regard to healthcare, Davis supports a government-funded public option, which would allow middle-income, working-age adults the option to choose a public insurance plan like Medicaid or Medicare instead of a private insurance. According to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, about 10 percent (before the pandemic) of North Carolinians fall into the coverage gap, in which working adults make too much to qualify for public healthcare, too little to afford private insurance and healthcare is not offered by their employer. Davis is endorsed by the AFL-CIO, of which the National Nurses United and the American Federation of Government Employees unions are affiliated.
In western North Carolina, about 50 percent of the population do not have access to broadband internet. Davis’s proposal, which has become a bipartisan solution to the issue, would be to implement a program similar to the Rural Electrification Act, which brought electricity to Appalachia. Davis supports Rep. Jim Clyburn’s bill that would appropriate $80 billion to the REA to bring broadband to the area, and Davis opposes a bill supported by Sen. Thom Tillis that prevented local municipalities from forming broadband cooperatives.
Davis is also an advocate of green technology and would like to see the industry become a vital part of western NC. North Carolina is the second largest producer of solar energy in the nation according to the Solar Energy Industries Association, and Davis supports federal tax credits that make these panels affordable for consumers, and would like to see the manufacturing of these panels occur in the state, especially in poorer areas.
National Public Radio reported on September 2 that the federal government’s debt burden is projected to be larger than the overall economy next year, an economic scenario that has not occurred since the end of World War II. Davis, who holds a Master of Law with a concentration in fiscal policy, believes the government does not need to increase its tax revenue but needs to be wiser in the way it spends its money. Davis describes the government’s fiscal policy as “hugely inefficient.”
In regard to Davis’s stances on various other issues, his website states that Davis supports the following: a G.I. Bill for law enforcement, a cap of zero-percent interest on student loans, expansion of Title 1 school funding, a $15 minimum wage, preservation of the Social Security system, a woman’s right to choose, marijuana legalization, citizenship for dreamers, background checks and red flags laws, the repeal of Citizens United, LGBTQ rights and the creation of a database to track incidents of police misconduct.
“Look at my opponent, and look at our policies and see who’s got new ideas to make life better in western North Carolina and who’s got old ideas that got us into the predicament that we’re in,” Davis explained. “If you need an electrician or a heart surgeon, or you take your car into the shop, you don’t say, ‘Which one of you guys has never done this before?’ Why would you do that with your member of Congress?”
Davis is running against Republican candidate Madison Cawthorn this November. Absentee voting began September 4, and the voter registration deadline ends at 5 p.m. on October 9. Early voting will take place from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Oct. 15 and 16, from Oct. 19 to 23, from Oct. 26 to 30 and from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Oct. 31 at the Newland poo complex. Polling sites will be open across Avery County from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 3.