Magness Lake, in Heber Springs, is a magnet for swans
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 little surprise at his defeat — he knew it would be close, he said — but some surprise about how negative the campaign became. He still endorsed 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.
Although he seems at peace with the outcome, he can quickly shift into campaign mode, defending his positions and highlighting differences between him and Lincoln. And he has things to say about his difficult relationship with some of the Democratic Party establishment.
A lot of people thought you were going to win. What happened?
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... 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.
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 County.
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 interests? 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.
You mentioned President Obama's endorsement. President Clinton came down for a Lincoln rally and told the audience their votes were being manipulated. You used to work for Clinton and I just wonder if that hurt, politically or personally, and how much impact did he have?
Certainly any time you have an endorsement by a president in a party primary that's going to have an impact. How much of an impact? You can't really know. We knew that Sen. Lincoln had President Clinton's endorsement before we even entered the race. That was not an unknown to us going into the race.
It seems like the Democratic establishment in the state — the elected officials, longtime party volunteers — didn't really like you for some reason, or tended to support Lincoln. It also seemed to me that you had a lot of support from younger Democrats. Is there any truth to the idea that a rift exists between the Democratic establishment and Bill Halter?