So much for primaries | Arkansas Blog

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

So much for primaries

Posted By on Wed, Mar 11, 2009 at 9:16 AM

A reader -- a Democratic Party regular -- sent me a thoughtful letter yesterday. It's about the power of incumbency. No, not just Attorney General Dustin McDaniel's incumbent protection bill (laughingly styled ethics reform) that would enrich and further empower incumbents with a huge windfall in campaign money retention. That subject prompted the letter, but it's more about the tendency of Democratic officials to raise money for and endorse incumbent officeholders even before primary filing has begun. See Sen. Blanche Lincoln. His letter is on the jump. Food for thought. I liked your article on the proposed ethics reforms.  It does seem rather hopeless, doesn't it.  It seems like the meaning of "ethics" has been redefined, at least in Arkansas.  Anymore, it's not simply a matter of being ethical, but to what degree do we practice this thing called "ethics".  I always thought it was black or white.  One was either ethical or one was not!
On a similar matter, I have seen a trend in this country and state where the party out of power is the one that claims the high road on ethics.  I am a lifelong Democrat and long-time county party chairman.  I have worked numerous hours for our candidates, at both the local/state level and for our national leaders.  Up until recently, I honestly believed that there was a real difference.  Now, after the way Democrats are acting in DC and even in Arkansas, I do not see much difference in either party.
I have been flooded with invitations to attend and be as a sponsor for the reelection of Senator Lincoln.  I have received these in my name and in the name of our county Democratic Committee.  Even today, I received an invitation to this event from the Arkansas Democratic Party, asking me to come out and support Senator Lincoln's reelction bid.  I noticed on one of these invitations, about every elected Democratic Party leader in Arkansas was listed on the invite as a sponsor for the Lincoln event (which carries a donation of $1,000 or more). 
As a matter of fact, I truly like Senator and I am sure she will be reelected.  But, what bothers me about all of this is that the party leaders have already endorsed her, before the filing period for the party primary is even in sight (it will be next spring).  Gosh, if they do this for one candidate, must they not do it for all incumbents! 
As a county party leader, it has always been my understanding that county and state elected party officials do not openly endorse one Democrat over another, in our primaries.  I also thought this standard applied to our federal office holders too. This, at least, is how I read the party rules.
But, there has been a trend in Arkansas, especially over the past two or three years, to ignore this practice.  I simply do not feel that it is right for any elected incumbent of our party to openly solicit donations for reelection----before the close of the primary filings.  It is only after the primary filings officially close that a candidate can determine whether or not they will have an opponent.   I just do not think this is in keeping with the foundation of our party.
Now, I have been around enough to know that Democrats do take sides in the primary---and that is fine.  However, I do not think it is right for any high Party Officials to overtly and openly take sides so early in the election process--especially since the primary is over a year away.  From what I can see, almost all of our officials have endorsed Senator Lincoln.  For all any of us know, some other good Democrat might want to file for the US Senate office next year.  While I do intend to support Senator Lincoln, I should and must give any other potential Democratic candidate/s the courtesy of my objectiveness, at least until the primary filing closes.   I think this should and must be the policy for all elected party leaders also.
It looks to me that the actions being taken by our party leaders and by the party itself are designed to let others potential candidates know that they ought not think about running for this seat.  What other conclusion can one draw?
I invite you to look at the list of sponsors for this event and see what your conclusion is.

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