AR-Sec. State: Spineless Fearmongering and the “Spinning Tires Strategy”

18 Aug

Over the last few weeks we have weighed in with our thoughts on what has become one of the more hotly contested state office races — that between the ideas-driven campaign of Democrat Pat O’Brien and the uninformed-on-state-issues/absorbed-in-national-talking-points style of Rep. Mark Martin. Specifically, we have tried to uncover just what Martin’s priorities are and discern what, if anything, makes him more qualified for the position than the more proven O’Brien. Unfortunately, all we have received from his campaign is meaningless chatter on issues that have little to no bearing on the functions of the office he seeks.

As you know (and if you don’t, Rep. Martin will certainly remind you multiple times in the same breath), during the 2008 presidential election, Pulaski County Clerk O’Brien led Arkansans for Obama, even as Obama battled Arkansas’s former first lady, Hillary Clinton, in that amazing primary race.  O’Brien later served as a delegate for Obama at the Democratic National Convention, which must have been a proud moment for a man that considers Bobby Kennedy a political hero due to his “passion to serve and an ability to transcend his time.” O’Brien enthusiastically supported Obama’s positions on middle-class and low-income tax cuts, the promotion of charter schools, and plans to finally end trade barriers with Cuba, which could provide a market for Arkansas farmers.

But what do either candidate’s thoughts on some of the president’s positions mean in terms of being the person to follow Charlie Daniels as Arkansas’s next Secretary of State? Well, actually…not much. The primary duties of the Secretary of State’s office are to oversee a staff of roughly 150 who help counties hold elections and to maintain the statewide voter registration system. The person in this office is also part of a three-member Board of Apportionment, along with the governor and attorney general, who each have a vote in appointing a state redistricting coordinator and are scheduled to draw boundaries for state legislative districts in 2011 based on the 2010 Census.

Clearly, a candidate’s views on Obama’s healthcare legislation or his push to let the Bush tax cuts for the rich expire have zero bearing on the duties of this position. The fact that the Secretary is also a member of a three-person board for redistricting purposes means that, even if a heavily partisan candidate were ever elected, he or she would not be able to do anything too radical because of the checks and balances put in place.

Undeterred, however, Martin has chosen to make this race entirely about O’Brien’s support of Obama, as Max Brantley recently laid out very well on his blog. Beginning in July, about the only points that Martin has offered out on the trail — including Secure Arkansas and Arkansas Tea Party events — are a fabricated portrayal of O’Brien as some out-of-touch political radical and Martin’s own willingness to say his best trait in office would be to stay out of the way. Perhaps looking to seize on the apparent momentum of his “spinning tires strategy” (based on GOP internal polling numbers), Rep. Martin actually attempted to link O’Brien, Obama, and the current chaos involving the Taliban in Pakistan as he spoke to Association of Arkansas Election Commissioners on August 6, and later attempted to raise O’Brien’s support of Obama while serving in office as some sort of betrayal of the public’s trust in a press release.

“During the 2008 Presidential election, Mr. O’Brien actively worked on the campaign of Barack Obama while he was serving as the chief elected election official in Pulaski County. Not only did he endorse Barack Obama, but he served as the chief spokesman for the Obama campaign in Arkansas,” Martin stated.

“To be clear, I am not saying that he did anything illegal, but I am saying that he created an appearance of impropriety in the election process. As an election official, it is your duty to make sure that the elections are beyond reproach. I think Mr. O’Brien’s work on behalf of the Obama campaign created an appearance of a conflict of interest that was likely troublesome to many voters,” Martin added.

Apparently Martin is trying to liken his opponent to one of those “liberal pseudo-intellectual parrots who have no understanding of the philosophical underpinnings of their worldviews” that he likes to rant about on his poorly-written blog. You know, because doing that would gloss over the fact that O’Brien — largely by appointing a bipartisan task force — cleaned up the huge voter registration and recordkeeping mess in the state’s largest county and made his office one of the the most computer-accessible in the state, all in just two terms in office. Meanwhile, Martin, when questioned by the Dem-Gaz in July, couldn’t cite any accomplishment of note during his years serving as state representative, though he didn’t back down from his silly — and very politically ideological — attempt to require the state’s schools to teach intelligent design theory alongside real science.

For his part, O’Brien has stuck to this issues, touting his experience and success in office and offering ideas for the future, and stuck to his convictions (a pretty novel idea in today’s political environment, huh?), even going so far as to tell the Arkansas News Bureau that, should he win in November, he would consider serving in a similar role for Obama’s state organization come 2012.

When asked about Martin’s campaign focus in recent weeks, O’Brien had this to say:

“He is really trying to go after my integrity, which I take great offense to because I have conducted 37 separate elections and no one has ever questioned the results of any of the elections that I have been a part of in my last six years.”

“You don’t forfeit your First Amendment rights when you work for any branch of state government,” he said. “Even the judiciary, there have been court opinions saying you can’t restrict very many of their activities.”


One Response to “AR-Sec. State: Spineless Fearmongering and the “Spinning Tires Strategy””


  1. AR-Sec. State: From Fearmongering To Foolish Hypocrisy | Blue Hog Report: Arkansas's Source for Progressive Politics - August 18, 2010

    […] Following up on Jeff’s post, today’s Arkansas “Democrat”-Gazette had an interesting piece in the Voices section regarding Mark Martin’s attacks on Pat O’Brien. […]


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