It's very clear by now that a lot of Arkansans walked into the voting booth Nov. 2 and simply filled in the bubble next to anyone's name that didn't have a "D" beside it. The reasons for that will be worried over well beyond this election season.
But there are Republicans and there is Republican Loy Mauch, elected to represent House District 26 near Hot Springs. A former head of the Sons of the Confederate Veterans post in Hot Springs, Mauch calls the Confederate flag "a symbol of Jesus Christ," and is a current member of The League of the South, a group which works toward the formation of an independent Southern nation.
Founded in 1994 in Killen, Ala., The League of the South advocates for "the secession and subsequent independence of the southern states from this forced union and the formation of a southern republic," according to the "Introduction" page on its website. The site also encourages members to "personally secede from the corrupt and corrupting influence of post-Christian culture in America" by home-schooling children and creating "parallel institutions to which people can attach their loyalties."
The Southern Poverty Law Center calls the group a "neo-Confederate" organization, adding that League rhetoric often bears racist overtones. "The League believes the 'godly' nation it wants to form should be run by an 'Anglo-Centric' (read: white) elite that would establish a Christian theocratic state and politically dominate blacks and other minorities," an SPL report said.
Mauch, who lives in Bismarck, won the seat in House District 26 — which primarily lies in Hot Spring County but includes a small corner of Garland County, and contains the city of Malvern — by 533 votes, taking 53.5 percent of the 7,531 ballots cast. He replaces term-limited Democrat Mike Burris. Mauch's opponent in the race was Terry Bracy, a former Malvern City Council member who owns an ambulance company. When told that Mauch was a member of a group that believes in Southern secession and is a strident defender of the Confederate flag, Bracy said that he didn't have that information during the campaign.
"Everybody is entitled to their opinion, I guess," Bracy said. "I was hoping maybe that the electorate would be more in tune with that. I really didn't want to be negative in the campaign to be honest with you."
For his part, Loy Mauch said that he is a small-government Republican, who went door to door and listened to the concerns of his district. "The number one issue in our district was jobs — jobs in the private sector, of course," Mauch said. "I guess if we want to have jobs, we've got to have a business-friendly environment. You do that by cutting government red tape, regulation and cutting taxes." While Mauch said he isn't as active in the Tea Party as he once was, he's very sympathetic to their goals, saying they've "got it right" about limited government.
Asked about his involvement in the League of the South, which listed him as the chairman of their western Arkansas chapter as late as 2005, Mauch said that he's a dues paying member, but is too busy to be active in the organization and doesn't attend meetings. He said the chair position was "just a title." Contrary to the League website, Mauch said the group doesn't want the former Confederacy to stray from the Union again. "We don't think we should secede from the Union," Mauch said. "We just want constitutional government. Secession has never been unconstitutional."
For seven years, Mauch was the commander of James M. Keller Camp 648 of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. He stepped down as commander last year. In 2004, angered by the city of Hot Springs' refusal to remove a statue of Abraham Lincoln displayed in the Hot Springs Civic and Convention Center, the Keller Camp hosted a conference in Hot Springs called "Seminar on Abraham Lincoln — Truth vs. Myth," with a keynote address called "Homage to John Wilkes Booth."
Mauch said that he believes Lincoln didn't follow the Constitution. Of the statue of Lincoln in the convention center, Mauch said: "I didn't think it had any place down in Hot Springs, Arkansas. He wasn't friendly to Arkansas. He didn't have anything to do with Arkansas. Nobody in Arkansas voted for him."
A prolific writer of letters to the editor (Garland County Democratic Party chair George Hozendorf said one of the only things he knew about Mauch was that he recalled a letter to the Hot Springs Sentinel-Record in which Mauch advocated for enlarging the controversial Confederate flag and Confederate soldier statue at the fork of Central and Ouachita Avenues), Mauch took pen in hand in 2008 during the controversy stirred up by Huntsville businessman James Vandiver's decision to respond to the election of Barack Obama by flying a Confederate battle flag in front of his motel.
"The government has lost its moral authority over God-fearing Americans," Mauch wrote to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. "I wish more patriots like James Vandiver would take their stand for what the Confederate Battle Flag truly symbolizes."
When asked what the Confederate flag symbolizes, Mauch said: "It's a symbol of constitutional government. It's a symbol of Jesus Christ above all else. It's a symbol of Biblical government."
Mauch has used the phrase "Biblical government," in letters to the editor before, but said he doesn't mean a theocracy. "It's just that the government has limitations," he said. "Christians are commanded to obey the laws of the land as ordained by God. It's like that... it's constitutional government, with limitations on government."
Mauch said he wants to work to serve the people of District 26 and the state of Arkansas. "My job is a service job," he said. "I'm here to serve them, not the other way around. I'm the voice of my constituents in my district."