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The Future of Arkansas Democrats

14 Aug

arkdemsbannerIt’s one thing to duke it out and lose. It’s quite another to not even put up a fight when it comes to these important congressional races.

First, Arkansas progressives found themselves wondering what the heck happened to our Forrest Gump candidate in AR-03, now we’re supposed to come to the defense of ol’ sud-sippin’ Grandpa Herb in AR-02. We sent up a school bus driver against an impressive bunch of D.C. insiders in AR-04. Thank goodness for Scott Ellington in AR-01, who at least gives us a shot of not being shutout completely this fall. Seriously, is this the best Dems here can offer? Exactly what was it that the state party did to “regroup” following the historic GOP gains in 2010? No push to recruit top-notch candidates? Are we quietly just waiting it out until President Obama is off the top of the ticket before we even try again? If not, why does it feel that way right now?

Sadly, Governor Beebe does not use his broad popularity to push anything bold or progressive, or even to really push for other Democrats down-ticket. Historically popular politicians generally try to leave their mark on history . . . but I just don’t see a reduction in the grocery tax or a landslide re-election as having a lot of staying power in the minds of future generations. If he were maintaining his spot above the fray in anticipation of a run for federal office, perhaps that approach would make sense. Otherwise, it is just a big ol’ disappointment. Perhaps the Left’s biggest guns here, Bill Halter and Dustin McDaniel, are already setting the stage for a primary bloodbath in two years. And as we saw in the Halter v. Lincoln war, spending millions to tear down each other didn’t bode well in November with so many hard feelings still lingering. As much as I personally admire Halter and his ideas, this “secrecy” he maintains to what his next moves will be make it difficult on other progressives possibly considering runs of their own or wanting to build a movement behind his populist message.

It’s beyond time for progressives here to rebrand themselves (being champions of government ethics reform and protecting the environment in the era of fracking could be winning issues to start) and start developing a roster of young talent to run for office over the next decade. While there has been some movement on this front with progressive groups forming, it must go beyond occasional email list updates or get-togethers downtown to drink and socialize. Considering that seemingly everyone just looked around with shrugged shoulders when it came time to run against Congressman Griffin and his record – from the state’s most progressive and populated region in a seat long-held by someone like Congressman Snyder – just seems to prove that apathy has indeed settled in and that Democrats are subtly just allowing the complete GOP-takeover to occur.

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Timmywatch: The Case Against Griffin?

4 Aug

Said Ernie Dumas:

Griffin made the group’s list of delinquent aspirants for his part in a sleazy scheme to keep blacks and other potential Democratic voters in Florida away from the polls in the 2004 presidential election when he was an operative for the Republican National Committee and for his unsavory role in the U.S. attorney scandal in 2006, which forced the resignation of seven top Justice Department officials, including the attorney general of the United States.

Wild allegations from the always-reliable Dumas? Hardly.

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AR-02: Building Upon the Snyder Legacy?

13 May

You may have already passed by your office pile of this week’s Arkansas Times and noticed retiring Congressman Vic Snyder on the cover. Yes, just a few days before the (non-early) voters finally weigh in on the Race to Replace Arkansas’s True Blue Democrat, the state’s leading progressive publication has finally cast the spotlight on that “other” highly important Democratic primary battle. In AR-02, Democratic voters have a choice between keeping this seat squarely in the corner of progress and compassionate legislating or trying to “be more like them” by watering down the message and attempting to ignore big issues facing our country because of the fear of what the latest Arkansas poll may say on the matter.

Times writer Doug Smith’s Four of a Kind story is well written, and it articulates the mood of Ark Dems and the decision they’re being forced to make when they enter the voting booth:

Many followers of Arkansas politics believe chances are slim that the Second Congressional District will elect a successor of comparably leftish views. Aspirants are not lacking, however. Five Democrats are seeking their party’s nomination, and four of them resemble Snyder in political orientation. (Though, like Snyder himself, they don’t shout their liberal inclinations.) But three of these are practically unknown, with the election imminent, and the fourth is a black woman. Arkansas has never sent a black woman to Congress. The fifth Democrat is more conservative than the others, and he’s the best-financed of the bunch, the “establishment” candidate, expected by many to lead the ticket in the first primary. The two candidates in the Republican primary are, like all Republicans these days, proudly far-right. One, the favorite in that race, is a Karl Rove protege. From Vic Snyder to Karl Rove is a long drop.

Smith reiterates what we already know: House Speaker Robbie Wills has led an incumbent-style campaign and has attempted (and, somehow, largely succeeded) to get away with not answering the toughest and most potentially divisive questions during interviews and in debates. Though he flatly stated he would have voted “no” to federal healthcare reform, and despite the efforts by candidates David Boling and John Adams to hold him accountable on this stance during the three debates, Wills “These Hands” approach keeps on working somehow as he goes about dodging the issue and spinning his original answer with deliberate mistatements about how reform will affect the state’s Medicaid obligations. In our minds, local media has not done enough to contrast the differences between Wills and the rest of the field, and, instead, has almost rubber-stamped his front-runner status and “inevitable” primary victory. Just another in a long line of name-only good ol’ boy Democrats from Arkansas, if you ask us.

AR-02: Timmy! v. ???

Though the Times rolled out their rather unsurprising endorsement of liberal stalwart State Senator Joyce Elliott last week, we here at TWP have noted her perhaps-too-out-there-even-for-progressives statements in the debates as well as the elephant in the room, her electability in a general election tilt. Smith also notes Elliott’s statements, such as “fairness doesn’t mean treating everyone the same way” as potential problems for her in this primary and moreso in a November match-up vs. Rove-protege Timmy! Griffin or Huckster-wannabe Scott Wallace.  We do not see her as the candidate best positioned to carry on the Snyder Legacy — one of progressive views, but also with a pragmatism any legislator from this state must bring with them in order to achieve anything meaningful.

So, again we ask, who is the best choice in this field to carry on the Snyder Legacy? Surely his chief-of-staff of the past two years, right? Well, we’ve recounted David Boling’s shortcomings during this primary — most notably how his $300,000+ spent on this campaign in order to be third or fourth in the polls is perhaps one of the biggest election flops we’ve seen here in recent years — and given the fact that Snyder himself hasn’t endorsed Boling (or anyone else), perhaps voters are barking up the wrong tree with that choice. We do applaud his attempts to contrast his positions vs. Wills’, but he just hasn’t been able to connect with voters at the debates or on television.

Lil’ P.K. takes it to tha district… state… world… SOMETHING?

Ok, so we all know that there’s one hot-headed candidate more than willing to contrast himself against the others, but that candidate has offended and alienated so many people (including Jesus?) in such a short time during this primary that we honestly look for him to head back home to South Carolina with his tail between his legs at this point.  Smith notes the “anger” shown by him. It seems that Lil’ P. Kennedy is like a homeless man’s Howard Dean — has the rolled-up sleeves and foaming at the mouth down, but comes nowhere near the adept understanding of policy the former DNC Chair always shows.

Adams: Campaigning on Competence

As Smith mentions, and as more and more local progressives have seemingly started to notice in the past couple of weeks, the real “issues-driven candidate” with the palatable demeanor is Blue Hog Report’s AR-02 endorsee, John Adams. In fact, it was Adams’ performances in the three debates that forced us to think more about his campaign — one under-the-radar in some respects, but one that has been the most consistent, pragmatic, and closest to Snyder’s core values as a lawmaker. Snyder may be given the “liberal” label here, but he is hardly far left by most national standards; rather, he has brought many of the same qualities to office that Adams could bring — ideologically progressive and forward-thinking, but inoffensive and able to win in Republican-leaning election years.

Adams delivered his third straight sound debate performance at the Sticky Fingerz debate Tuesday night. While once again not receiving the local buzz generated by Wills’ rehearsed one-liners or Lil’ P.K.’s post-debate tweets, he was the candidate tackling issues, such as making our tax code fair with true reforms and acknowledging America’s status as the world’s military super power must be re-examined in the context of the world we now face where globalization and the effect of terrorism has changed the 20th Century rules we’ve been playing by.

Who’s Your Congressman? (Arkansas Times)

Most importantly, perhaps, is Adams’ potential electability in a November showdown with whoever the Repugs choose. I just hope voters will give him a second look because he could just the right person at the right time to keep the seat.

An uphill battle to get the chance? Certainly. But hard to not believe in the cause with responses like that, isn’t it?