AR-03: Whitaker As “Anti-Democrat”

30 Jul

Today, Talk Business profiles the campaign of Democrat David Whitaker in AR-03  — a district that has long been GOP cawntry. For many years, Ark Dems have put little effort into producing any real challenge to the Republican stronghold in this part of the state, but as Blue Arkansas pointed out all the way back in November of last year, the times are a (slowly) changin’ as demographics have shifted and progressives have begun to organize themselves. In fact, Whitaker has already reaped some benefits of these trends — he’s done far better than many expected in fundraising and has built a solid ground organization.

With all this being said, however, and as Brock points out in his piece, Whitaker can hardly be seen as a hero of the Left, and his stances opposing HCR and Card Check legislation so important to labor may make him more of an “anti-Democrat” in the mold of Blanche Lincoln and Mike Ross.

Whitaker is a Democrat, but don’t assume he supports the agenda of Congressional Democrats. Whitaker has problems with the federal health care bill. He’d vote against the cap-and-trade (Waxman-Markey) climate bill. And he’d vote against the Employee Free Choice Act (card check) bill as it is written.

His problem with the health care bill is that he doesn’t believe it will cut costs. He predicts “big gaps with cost containment” in Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements. Whitaker’s concerns mirror that of Gov. Mike Beebe who recently told The City Wire the federal health care bill “doesn’t at all touch” a funding gap states will see in their medicaid program.

Whitaker has “very serious concerns” with the cap-and-trade mechanism of the preferred energy-climate bill proposed by House Democrats. He wouldn’t vote for the bill as is. He says the bill would create “huge” costs for utility customers in rural states like Arkansas. As to nuclear energy being a low-carbon solution, Whitaker says it is a “bridge” to clean energy “but not an endpoint.” The waste from nuclear energy troubles Whitaker.

He also says he would not vote for card check in its present form. Whitaker says workers certainly need more protections from big business, but card check goes too far.

Whitaker, who is constructing a Kentucky flintlock rifle in what little spare time the campaign affords, is also a believer in the 2nd Amendment right to keep and bear arms. He was pleased with the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision that overturned the Chicago ban on individual gun rights.

Must you run right-of-center as a Dem in right wing territory? Oh, to be sure — at least if you want to even be in the ballgame. Admittedly, I’ve angered some of my progressive friends in campaigns past because I’m willing to compromise/justify my candidate’s compromises on some of the issues important to me — all because I feel that winning is everything and losers don’t get a seat at the table in today’s political environment . But opposing the president’s signature issue of the past year, siding against our core voting bloc of big labor, and making a point to distance yourselves from all D.C. Dems? I think it both flies in the face of what his proclaimed political inspiration, Gen. Wes Clark, did as a moderate Democratic candidate in 2004, and I think he smells a little too much like Mike Ross to get progressives overly excited to buck the trend and go to battle on Mr. Whitaker’s behalf.

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