This further opens the field to a Republican challenger in reddening Arkansas. Republican State Rep. Andrea Lea has said she might run. A Republican even more conservative than Lea, Ken Yang of Benton, is already in the race.
Daniels' name, the same as that of a well-known country musician, has always been credited for his electoral success, but he also was a capable politician with roots deep in what was once a one-party state. It was not name alone that made him the biggest vote getter of the 2002 election cycle, when he won re-election as secretary of state against a challenge by then-First Lady Janet Huckabee. (That might have also had something to do with his opponent.)
Daniels' news release follows:
The premise is whether there's room enough in the Republican middle for Carter to mount a winning primary campaign. His money quote (and it would be a campaign theme, I'd think, should he run because it suggests blind calculation and lack of principle on the part of opponents):
“It’s not worth it to me to go out and be someone I’m not to win anything,” Carter said.
The notion that Carter is a centrist is the best indication there is about the extreme orientation of the Republican Party of Arkansas (and all the other Deep South Republican states). Carter advocated Medicaid expansion. That's enough to make him poison to the Tea Party. But otherwise, he 1) supported the gun agenda slavishly, with the exception of open carry, a bit of nuttery too far for many others; 2) he voted down the line on the anti-woman abortion bills; 3) he engineered a bodacious tax cut for multi-millionaires; 4) he gave the definitive vote on constitutionally suspect legislation aimed at cutting down black voting strength in Arkansas, 5) he waved through an anti-gay resolution. Only to Republican contenders Asa Hutchinson and Curtis Coleman is this the voting record of a centrist. On the other hand: Are GOP legislators John Burris, David Sanders and Jonathan Dismang centrists? They are widely credited, after all, with pushing Obamacare through the legislature with majority Republican support. Maybe they could form a Centrist Republicans for Davy organization. (PS: I meant this tongue in cheek.)
In the Republican context of today, centrist mostly means personally pleasant. These "centrists" don't rub it in gleefully (see your average gun nut) when they cram their ultraconservative agenda down the throats of middle-of-the-roaders and liberals.
Take Court of Appeals Judge Rhonda Wood of Conway. She made headlines by using Republican Gov. Mike Huckabee as a robocaller for her election campaign.
Consider, too, the Arkansas Republican Party, which once put out a slate of recommended judicial candidates (just in case you didn't already knew which ones leaned toward the narrow and rigid Republican agenda.)
Lately, I've been noticing Judge Wood's Twitter feed, and those of others. (I've moved several of them down to the jump so as not to clutter up this page too much, but you'll see she turns up at Lincoln Day and Republican-themed events with other Republicans on a regular basis.) Typical is a tweet below to two Republican legislators about a Republican Party event in Baxter County.
I'll leave it to Faulkner County courthouse watchers to explain all the recent highly partisan intrigue involving Judges Wood and Judge Mike Maggio (another Republican event attendee mentioned on her tweets), Republican Prosecutor Cody Hiland and some recent prosecutions on the other side of the political fence in Conway. Judge Maggio is making rounds of same Republican events, by the way. A typical tweet from a full complement of Republican activities:
Then today came a tweet from Republican gubernatorial candidate Curtis Coleman:
Having lunch with @judgemikemaggio at the Van Buren Co Republican LincolnDay Luncheon.Need him on the Court of Appeals. @colemanforar
— Curtis Coleman (@curtiscoleman) April 27, 2013
What do you bet Maggio is prepping for a race for Court of Appeals should Wood make a move, as expected, for one of the coming openings on the Arkansas Supreme Court. Party labels? No need to worry about those anymore. And please: you should not let Huckabee endorsements, Lincoln Day dinner attendance, rapt attendance to Republican gubernatorial candidates or touts from Curtis Coleman make you think they'd be anything but purely independent and strictly nonpartisan in their rulings from the bench. Truth is, given the trend in Arkansas, they WANT you to know they're Republicans — through and through.
The new legislation to make prosecutors run independently will be just about as useful in removing partisan taint from their work. I tend to agree with the old Democratic judge, Wendell Griffen, that judges have a 1st Amendment right to say just about anything, including promote partisan candidates. Is it wise? Is it judicious? Does it build confidence in the system when they do so? You tell me. (That Maggio presumes to higher office is a shocker for more than partisan coloration.)
The Arkansas Republican Party is positively thrilled that Nancy Pelosi is speaking in Little Rock today (noon at
Statehouse Convention Robinson Center to accommodate an expected large crowd). If there's anything an Arkansas Republican hates more than the black Muslim from Kenya in the White House, it's the rhymes-with-witch former speaker from the City by the Gay.
Today's "welcoming" statement from the Arkansas GOP notes gleefully that U.S. Rep. Mike Ross voted for Pelosi for speaker when Democrats were in the majority. His votes were among the fairly rare praiseworthy moments in Ross' congressional tenure. The Republicans see it differently. "With that kind of judgment for Speaker, we can’t wait to see what Mike Ross plans for Arkansas,” said GOP Chair Doyle Webb.
(Aside: Webb — whose own record includes being rapped for misdeeds with an elderly woman's estate; getting called down by his sister over handling of his own mother's estate, and getting mired in a real estate bog in Benton — is now an arbiter on good judgment?)
What is it about Pelosi that inspires such animosity? It's real though and you can't expect Republicans not to capitalize on her low esteem in polling.
A writer for Politics Daily took a stab at it three years ago. (Yes, the hate burns long for Rep. Pelosi.)
She's a tough, well-organized manager with a stable family life and a record of delivering for her popular president.
...Still, for reasons that I can't fathom, maybe because I agree with many of Pelosi's positions, the attacks on the speaker often seem to me mysteriously personal and vicious. When I recently asked Politics Daily readers why she engendered such dislike, taking care to mention that I wanted civil responses, they hurled descriptions like "arrogant," "idiot" and "two-faced snake in the grass."
Her very success (and in a man's world), I think, is a big part of it. See the same intensity of feeling toward the Big Dog.
PS — Doyle Webb, a la the Huckster, is capitalizing on the National Day of Prayer with a statement. At least he seeks only political capital, not actual money, in his press release.
PPS — Those scheduled to attend Pelosi's speech today include the father of one of the children killed in the Connecticut school massacre. He's working in the campaign to pass stronger gun safety laws and has already had a phone conversation with U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor.
UPDATE WITH PELOSI QUOTE: "I pray that Hillary Clinton runs for president." She also praised Obamacare (health care should be a right, not a privilege, she said) and said the country had a moral responsibility and responsibility to children in weighing pipeline locations, such as Keystone XL.
UPDATE WITH LINK TO SOME HATERS: Want to see a car wreck of hate? Check comments on D-G's coverage of Pelosi remarks.
Here's another look — lengthy and full of multiple poll citations — on the premise that it would NOT have been politically dangerous for the Fearful Four (Democrats Begich, U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor, Heitkamp, Baucus) to have allowed a vote on universal gun background checks.
Thomas Edsall makes a point I hit glancingly on the same subject this week. Politicians overestimate the size of the hard-right conservative bloc. This is certainly true in Arkansas, if you believe polling on a wide range of issues from abortion to drugs to guns. But it is an article of faith in Arkansas politics and I can't think of a local politician who won a race by a concerted run to the left (outside of Hillcrest or central Fayetteville, anyway).
Still, Edsall's numbers on the national mood on broad background checks is always worth repeating. And this based on recent academic research:
The Broockmany-Skovronz paper suggests that politicians left, right and center have been making decisions on the basis of mistaken premises about their voters. One hypothesis is that the roots of this misperception originated in the early 1980s, particularly with the 1980 election of Ronald Reagan, of a Republican Senate majority, and of a working conservative majority in the House.
Those events — followed by the 1994 and 2010 Republican landslides — stunned Democrats from Republican-leaning states, making them apprehensive. Fearing a conservative backlash, they were willing to shift their votes to the right.
The electorate has and will continue to punish liberal excess, but Democrats are only starting to recognize how voters have come to confront the liabilities and costs of conservatism. Democrats do not have a free hand to dole out tax-financed benefits to the liberal interest group community, but the likelihood that they will be punished for supporting common sense measures to contain gun violence is far less than it was two or three decades ago.
In the long run, the best hope for gun control advocates is the changing demographic make-up of the membership of their prime adversary, the National Rifle Association. Not only is the N.R.A. disproportionately dependent on older white men, a declining constituency, but strong majorities of current members, from 74 to 85 percent according to the polls cited above, defy the organization’s leadership and support background checks.
Jay Barth, Hendrix politics prof and Times contributor, offers the following analysis on Republican primary voting patterns and what they could mean for a candidate from outside Northwest Arkansas, the historic GOP base in the state.
The evidence that House Speaker Davy Carter is seriously contemplating a run for the Republican nomination for Governor against a candidate, Asa Hutchinson, with proven vote-getting ability in Northwest Arkansas raises the fundamental question of whether a candidate from outside that region can win a Republican primary.
Just a handful of election cycles ago, the answer to the question would have been clear: candidates with a strong base in Northwest Arkansas — even if there were doubts about their statewide general election viability — could make it through a GOP primary. For instance, in 2006, state Senator Jim Holt crushed opponents from Central Arkansas and Northeast Arkansas in the GOP runoff for Lieutenant Governor, gaining over 56% of the vote and avoiding a primary.
A glance at the vote totals in the 2012 GOP primary, shown in the map above, shows that Northwest Arkansas does indeed remain the source of a great share of Republican votes. But, tremendous change has occurred in just a few years. As Republicanism has become more pronounced in the state, participation in the GOP primary has begun to spread across Arkansas. The combined vote in Pulaski County, the three heavily white suburban counties of Saline, Faulkner, and Lonoke (which Carter represents)and two adjoining counties (Garland and White) now approximates that of Northwest Arkansas. Moreover, significant chunks of votes are now found across the state. While GOP voters remain relatively rare in the Delta counties where Carter, originally from Marianna, came of age, decent sized votes can be found in the other corners of the state.
A candidate like Carter would have to run up huge margins in the Little Rock metropolitan area and develop an expansive statewide network that could provide him wins in the counties outside the corridor of counties running from Benton to Sebastian. It’s not an easy task for a candidate who’s never run for office outside of a small House district, but it’s achievable in a quickly expanding GOP electorate in Arkansas.
McDaniel, in a statement praising Rutherford, said he'd be announcing a new chief shortly.
McLarty release and McDaniel statement follow:
"Media sweetheart" is how this piece in Politico puts it and they should know, having been pumping U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton (R-Club for Growth) since forever.
Somebody — gee, I wonder who? — leaked to Politico that Cotton had schooled Texas Sen. Ted Cruz on national security at a recent closed-door meeting of wingnuts.
Politico credits Cotton, without asterisk, for his fact-challenged critique of the Bush and Obama counterterrorism efforts. And touts the talk of him as the best challenger for U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor.
All of which has helped burnish Cotton’s aura as a GOP up-and-comer. Cotton says he hasn’t yet decided on a Senate bid, though Republicans close to him believe he is more likely than not to run. Leading Republicans are cheering him on with both short- and long-term political motives in mind.
Arizona Sen. John McCain and South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, the Senate’s leading GOP hawks, have both reached out to Cotton to urge him into the 2014 Senate race, sources said — as have a dozen-plus other members of the chamber. (McCain spokesman Brian Rogers declined to comment on the recruitment efforts but wrote in an email: “Senator McCain has the highest regard for Tom Cotton.”)
The Weekly Standard, the flagship publication for national security conservatives, has obsessively promoted Cotton’s speeches and campaign activities. Cotton has been close with the Standard’s editor, Bill Kristol, since striking up a friendship over email while deployed in uniform, and introduced himself to the Washington community while stationed across the river in Fort Myer. Both the Standard and National Review ran long profiles of then-candidate Cotton in late October of 2012; NR’s Jay Nordlinger later conducted a lengthy public interview of Cotton at a January conference hosted by the magazine.
Is the House version of Lindsey Graham what Arkansas voters have ordered? Or might they show some reluctance to endorse a charisma-challenged hard-line small government adherent so heartless he'd deny disaster aid to storm victims?
Some think Lt. Gov. Mark Darr's karaoke act, whatever it lacks in intellectual heft, would make him a far more appealing candidate and thus a more dangerous challenger to Pryor. That may be why Darr continues to play coy about 2014 (and make a campaign-style stop in Mississippi County recently.) But I should have added originally that the most prevalent rumor about Darr is that he'll run for 4th District Congress if Cotton runs for Senate. He need not move into the district to make the race, but probably would, say teabagger heaven, Garland County.
It's gotten him some attention, a lot of it unflattering. Others have noted, as we did, how dishonest Cotton was in claiming a perfect record for George W. Bush, if, first, you don't count the thousands killed in the 9/11 attacks on Bush's watch.
As Benen and others have noted, it's hard to ignore the nearly 3,000 people who died on 9/11 and the hundreds who have been killed since in tallying Bush's terrorism record. But the "since 9/11" count also leaves out the 2002 shooting at the Los Angeles International Airport, the anthrax attacks after 9/11, the recent ricin letters, the Richard Reid shoe bombing, and the D.C.-area snipers.
Cotton tried to narrow the parameters to make his case accurate, specifying "jihadists" who "reached their targets."
By that accounting, the Bush record on terror attacks was perfect. Obama, meanwhile, has racked up five terror attacks, notwithstanding that two of the plots Cotton cited — the Times Square bombing and the underwear bombing — failed.
The Blog reported last year on the case of Bob Means, who sued over his firing from counseling work at the Hot Springs Rehabilitation Center. He testified he was fired on the order of state Career Education Department Director Bill Walker, communicated though Robert Trevino, then head of state Rehabilitation Services.
Means was awarded $110,000 — and his attorney, Scott Hickam, should be in line for hefty legal fees — because of the finding he was fired for complaining to state and federal employees about services provided at the center for someone who wasn't eligible. Means contended the client continued to receive food, housing and other services as a a political favor.
Today, the Arkansas Supreme Court upheld the Garland County Circuit Court ruling in Mean's favor.
The court rejected the argument that Means was not a public employee entitled to whistleblower protection because he worked as an independent contractor. He did part-time work for public money in return for work at a public agency, the court noted. The state also argued that Means had not notified an "appropriate authority," though he'd reported waste to his immediate supervisor, a state senator and the governor's office, plus a federal inspector. The state said Means should have gone to the state auditor, Ethics Commission, prosecutor or director of the agency. It would be an "absurd result" to say a report to a direct supervisor was insufficient, the court said.
Mayors Against Illegal Guns, the well-funded group co-founded by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, is seriously considering a months-long television, radio and direct-mail campaign against Arkansas Sen. Mark Pryor, one of four Democrats who opposed expanding a background check for guns.
The goal: Make an example of him.
Senior members of Mayor’s Against Illegal Guns met at length Sunday to debate potential responses to the failure of President Obama’s gun regulation package, including a watered-down background check provision that fell five votes short.
...The broader goal of the Bloomberg group is to provide a political counterweight to the National Rifle Association which has had virtually unmitigated influence over Congress since 1994, when Democrats lost control of the House and blamed then-President Clinton’s assault-weapons ban.
The Bloomberg group is mulling a variety of messages and methods for Arkansas. One approach would be to target reliable Democratic voters, including African Americans, with advertising that calls out Pryor for “opposing the president’s agenda,” the official said. Another would be to expand the campaign to suburban women and other moderates. The campaign might not be limited to the issue of guns.
“Money would not be an object,” the official said, adding that a decision on whether to target Pryor would come soon and that action against other Democrats is still possible.
I stick with what I said to Fournier yesterday. A general election effort against Pryor only yields the worst possible outcome for progressive political forces, election of an even worse Republican. It is hard, too, to imagine success for a campaign supporting a liberal Democratic alternative to Pryor in the primary, presuming such an alternative presented itself. None is evident at the moment. And should such a candidate surface, he or she would be unlikely to have the organizational skills, personal money and huge labor support that Bill Halter had in his race for U.S. Senate against Blanche Lincoln. And Lincoln still won. But the damage done was no help in her losing November general election campaign.
A Bloomberg campaign against Pryor would just be a grievous wound in their own foot, seems to me.
Things are slow. So let's open the evening line early. What'll we do now that the legislature's done? Probably talk about politics:
* SPEAKING OF POLITICS: Sen. Johnny Key won't run for governor, he said today. I never thought he would. He'll continue his seemingly eternal stint in the legislature, where his power continues to accrue. Given what Repubs have done to executive power, it's arguably better to be a senior senator than governor. House Speaker Davy Carter said today he'll do some thinking about running for governor. He had a good session. I wonder: Is Asa Hutchinson for or against the Obamacare expansion approved by 28 Republicans and 49 Democrats/Green.
* WALTON WATCH: A union-backed website, The Walmart 1%, which looks after the objectionable activities of Walmart and the Walton family heirs to the fortune, has a new post up about Arkansas legislators who've benefitted from Walton campaign support. Focus today is Rep. Gary Stubblefield, one of the leaders of the charge to defund Planned Parenthood, along with anti-abortion, anti-Planned Parenthood Sen. Jason Rapert. Says the website:
It’s time for Jim Walton and Walmart to ask for their money back from Stubblefield and, more importantly, to publicly commit to stop funding extremist politicians who are apparently determined to undermine our rights.
They best not hold their breath. The Waltons have other uses for Rapert and Stubblefield than beating down Planned Parenthood and sex education programs, particularly in the field of busting up traditional public schools. There is an ironic angle to this. Sam Walton's wife, the late Helen Walton, was a long-time, if quiet, financial supporter of Planned Parenthood. Perhaps she could have talked to her son about the candidates he supports.
* HOG FARM HEARING: A public hearing has been set on the hog feeding operation approved for the Buffalo River watershed. Can it lead anywhere? Or is it just more state make-nice after approval of the permit. Odds aren't good that the Cargill-backed operation is going away, but more noise can't hurt. Details follow.
* SB 719, to create an investigative unit in Martin's office to investigate election complaints, a power already given to the state Board of Election Commissioners. Beebe said the bill "transfers virtually unfettered investigative power and authority to a partisan-elected official over complaints against persons accused, sometimes by political rivals, of violating election laws. However, while the bill makes it clear that the unit "shall" investigate "any" such complaint, the bill makes no provision for those cases in which a complaint might relate to the activities of the secretary of state or his/her office, or persons running for that office. Placing such unfettered authority in a partisan-elected office is a profoundly bad idea.
* SB 720, which authorizes the state Board of Election Commissioners to remove a county election commissioner if not qualified or for failure to perform duties. Beebe said the bill sets up a "mandatory, cumbersome and confusing" procedure for handling complaints, including a referral to the Ethics Commission even of complaints that "clearly lacks any basis in law or fact." The bill erroneously commands referrals to the Legislative Council when the legislature is in session, even though the Council doesn't meet then. Beebe said a procedure already exists in the law to remove commissioners.
* SB 721, which abolishes the current Board of Election Commissioners and reallocates appointments in such a way that, it so happens, will put the majority in the hands of Republican officeholders. "There is no evident need for a larger state board of Election Commissioners and blatant attempts to skew the political balance of a board charged with overseeing partisan elections will only harm, not promote, the public's confidence in the integrity of our state's election processes."
Beebe said he'd receive complaints from counties and election officials "of all political persuasions urging me to veto these three bills. They see them, individually and collectively, as unwarranted attempts to undo a carefully crafted system of checks and balances and divisions of responsibility between the state Board of Election Commissioners, the secretary of state's office and local election commissioners."
It is, of course, nothing but part of a massive legislative effort by the new Republican majority to consolidate power, a piece with the voter ID bill that Beebe vetoed earlier. That veto was overridden.
The legislature will reconvene in mid-May to take care of any loose ends and adjourn. The House speaker and president pro tem may call the chambers back into session on adjournment date for purposes of an override of these vetoes. With Republicans in leadership of both chambers and a majority of members in both and with control of elections high on the GOP junta's agenda, odds would seem to favor that happening.
UPDATE: The Arkansas County Election Commissions Association, which had testified against the bills, thanked Gov. Beebe for the vetos.
The Arkansas County Election Commissions Association (ACECA) sincerely thanks Governor Mike Beebe for his more than justified veto of Senate Bills 719, 720, and 721; and for listening to input from our association and members. These were unnecessary bills that would have blurred the lines separating activities of the Secretary of State and the State Board of Election Commissioners.
Susan Inman, leader of the association and a member of the state commission, officially issued the statement. But I'd note for the record that it was distributed by Stu Soffer, a Republican election commissioner who's been active in voting issues.
Ernie Dumas writes this week that the 2013 legislature's approval of Obamacare, against long odds, made up for a multitude of sins. Some good history here from someone who's seen a half-century of legislatures come and go.
So backward looking was the Arkansas legislature all winter that you wanted to search the rest of the paper every day for the latest news on the hookworm epidemic and yesterday’s lynchings, but then it did something truly progressive.
Implementing Obamacare, which Republicans had sworn oaths to fight, must go down as one of the great modern achievements of the General Assembly. Never mind that it would have been done without the legislature, and more cheaply, if the U. S. Supreme Court had not given states a veto of health insurance for the poorest working people.
Virtually alone among Southern and other solidly red states, the Arkansas legislature voted overwhelmingly to subsidize health insurance for everyone in the state whose incomes fall below 138 percent of the poverty line, which may be as many as 250,000 people.
Does that mean the liberal democratic tradition is alive and well in Arkansas? Did it take the Arkansas legislature to finally fulfill the dreams of Teddy Roosevelt and Harry Truman?
Lest we carry this too far, let it be noted that for 100 days, in one of the longest and most fruitless sessions of modern times, the newly minted Republican legislature did nothing to make a lasting improvement in the lives of Arkansans. Historians were beginning to debate whether the 2013 session was worse than the 1958 legislature, which empowered the governor to close schools to prevent black children from going to white schools and to punish teachers and government workers if they did not vow support for discrimination against blacks.
Or did it even eclipse the legislatures of the 1880s and early 1890s, which set out to nullify the 13th and 14th amendments and restore apartheid in Arkansas society? This legislature, after all, did pass a law to erect hurdles to voting for minorities, the aged and the disabled because they voted for Democrats more often than for Republicans.
In lame defense of the 2013 assembly, much of the backward law will be struck down by the courts because the acts patently violate either the U.S. or Arkansas Constitution: acts to outlaw abortions before 24 weeks, the vote-suppression law, and myriad others. Two years from now, those will be merely bad memories, but the great Medicaid expansion will be doing good works.
CONTINUE ON THE JUMP
A slow weekend was enlivened by 1) Benton County Republican Chris Nogy's advocacy, in a letter posted on Facebook, of using guns to make a point with legislators who voted for Obamacare and 2) a comment on Twitter by someone else about a desire to shoot House Speaker Davy Carter.
We reported on these episodes earlier today. The State Police took a look, including interviews with the social media savants who made the remarks. The agency, without saying so directly, apparently is marking it down to stupidity. Its statement:
Over the past three-days Special Agents of the Arkansas State Police Criminal Investigation Division were made aware of emails and social media activity containing threatening remarks directed at two members of the Arkansas General Assembly.
After making contact with the individuals who may have written and transmitted the comments; the State Police has not developed any evidence that would substantiate a criminal investigation being opened.
State Police have also been in contact with the state representatives who were the subjects of the comments and at this time there is no reason to believe their safety is presently compromised.
I'd note that the Twitter account that made the remark about Davy Carter posted this at mid-afternoon:
seanonymous @seanonymous 2h
@ArkansasBlog The one time I get something wrong on twitter and someone has to go and blog about it.
That could be a suggestion that his original comment about Carter was not meant as it appeared. I've asked him to elaborate. State Police have talked to the man who they believe made the post and don't believe he constitutes a threat. He lives in California. It's possible his unhappiness relates to Carter's support of the Republican faction that backed Obamacare in Arkansas, as opposed to a position on gun measures.
UPDATE: Others say they've learned the California Twitterer actually meant to direct an angry remark at Rep. Nate Bell for his pro-gun Tweet in the midst of the Boston bombing manhunt.
PS — Northwest Arkansas newspaperman Doug Thompson Twitters that Nogy and his wife, who published his letter in the Benton County Republican newsletter, have resigned from the committee.
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