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Lt. Gov. Bill Halter began sitting down with reporters last week to talk about his loss to Sen. Blanche Lincoln in the Democratic Senate primary and his future. He'll leave office with nowhere to go in early January.
Halter professes less surprise at his defeat than pundits did election night -- he knew it would be close, he said – but he said he was surprised about how negative the campaign became. He still endorses Lincoln in her fall race against Republican Rep. John Boozman.
Halter says he has no firm job or future political plans. But he will stay in Arkansas.
If he's at peace with the outcome, he can be revved into campaign mode, defending his positions and highlighting differences between him and Sen. Lincoln. And he has things to say about his difficult relationship with some of the Democratic Party establishment and a spoiler candidate who might have upset Halter's apple cart. Our interview:
A lot of people thought you were going to win. What happened?
I think there are probably a number of factors that contribute and it's hard to know exactly what contributed what amount and so forth. Campaigns, in terms of dynamics, it kind of all flows together. I do think it's interesting that when we entered the race, the conventional wisdom was that there was a heavy advantage to Sen. Lincoln, the incumbent. And then we ran a very good race and a bunch of people at the end believed we were going to win. What I focused on with my team was what they were able to accomplish in such a short period of time.
... Certainly, contributing factors were the fact that there were 100,000 fewer voters on runoff day than on primary day. If you look at the models and so forth and you look at where those votes came from, where folks didn't turn out and so forth, then very clearly fewer of our voters turned out than turned out for Sen. Lincoln. There was also structural things in that, geographic things as well. There were runoffs in the first and second congressional districts and there was a lot of interest in those primaries, but less on the ballot where we were very strong. So it's a number of things like that.
Did you get beat by a particular group? Democrats who thought it better to throw in with Lincoln? Cross-over voters?
We haven't done any analysis on crossover voters or anything like that and I still haven't gotten back a detailed precinct analysis, because it takes some time to do and you have to get the voter returns. Some of the things you're suggesting are hard to do, maybe even impossible to do, without doing an exit poll. .
The conventional wisdom was that there was a lot of outside money coming in, that you were being supported by the far left. But you lost Pulaski.
Yeah. This was something I discussed during the campaign that just did not get picked up and I'll say the exact same thing that I've been saying for months. The idea that this was a liberal – that this race was being conducted on a left-right spectrum -- really does not convey what was going on in the race. It was about whose side are you on. Who is fighting for middle-class families? Who's willing to take on powerful interest? It was a more populist versus corporatist race than any other sort of dimensions. If you look at where the turnout was heavy for us, it was in a lot of rural areas across Arkansas and what was being expressed there by those voters was a significant amount of discontent with the way things were going in Washington.
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