AR-02: A “Civil Tone” in Final Debate, Post-Debate Obnoxiousness Notwithstanding

12 May

Last night’s Arkansas Times AR-02 debate held at Sticky Fingerz was, by all accounts, a huge success. Over 200 people showed up, despite the Razorbacks baseball game going on over at Dickey-Stephens at the same time, and there was certainly an aura of excitement in the air (along with the smell of chicken strips and fries) with many undecided voters showing up and participating. Max Brantley offered this take on last night’s atmosphere:

Lots of uncommitted younger voters. One young couple I talked with came undecided but left wearing a candidate’s stickers. The candidates had some reservations about the setting in a restaurant/bar, but gamely soldiered on, made a few mild opening jokes about the venue and got down to the night’s serious round of questions and answers. There’s no doubt the setting attracted people who wouldn’t have been attracted by a school auditorium. It’s my impression the crowd was livelier and more engaged than those I’ve seen in other political forums this year. The candidates seemed to feed on that. Or maybe the energy just reflected the fact that election time grows short.

While Max stopped short of declaring a winner last night, though he noted that House Speaker Robbie Wills and his completely incumbent-style campaign had brought a bigger contingent along than the others and had obviously worked on some well-crafted zingers as responses on a number of issues. Blake Rutherford, who live-blogged the debate, gave Wills the win (we’ll get back to that tomorrow), and offered his take on the civility shown by the candidates (with one notable exception) in his round-up this morning:

The civility with which these candidates approached the race (several of Patrick Kennedy’s obnoxious late-night tweets excepted) is also commendable. If last night was an indication, these people truly believe that an honest and thoughtful debate about issues and ideas is what a political race should be about.

Regardless, Democratic voters in the 2nd congressional district were well-served by this primary. These are five interesting, bright, thoughtful candidates who brought the best of what they had – whether it was experience, intellect, determination, creativity, or a combination thereof – to the race. We should all be grateful for that.

Now with the debates for this hotly contested seat completed, BHR will delve more in-depth at some of the specific responses from these debates and highlight some of the differences discussed by the candidates, as well as some inconsistencies we have picked up on. Stay tuned.

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