Several Democrats called my attention to a debate last week before the Northeast Arkansas Political Animals in Jonesboro between Nate Looney, a Democrat challenging incumbent Republican Brandt Smith for a seat in the state House of Representatives.
Jason Willett, a Democratic political consultant, observes on Facebook that the debate sharply illustrated divergent political outlooks. I'll say. Among the highlights from the Q&A session, with key comments beginning at roughly the 20-minute mark:
* Looney emphasized the need to expand pre-K education, an initiative the Republican Party has stripped from its party platform.
* Smith said the spending is a waste of money. Looney just spouts "typical Democrat rhetoric," he said. "Let's throw more money at programs."
* Looney countered that pre-K education helps poor children particularly and can guide them away from future lives of crime. He noted, too, that pre-K provides a safe and valuable place for children of working parents who can't afford to stay home with children. Looney said studies, including at the University of Chicago, had shown a correlation between early education and reduced crime rates.
* Smith said you couldn't trust research from Chicago, a Democratic stronghold and a violent place. "I place little trust of research that come out of a democratic stronghold where cities are imploding." Really. (Never mind that the University of Chicago is one of the finest in the country, with an economics department notable for its conservative thinkers.)
* Smith said kids should stay at home with families rather than being packed off to school.
Smith said educators, from grade school to college, always want more money. "They show up with hands open and they want more money every time. We need to be spending our money more wisely."
Political campaign money came up, too. Looney said he wouldn't accept PAC money. Smith does, but he said he'd never be influenced by it. He says he reports his money, plus everybody knows he's a conservative Republican. He'll vote for Donald Trump, he said. He notes, too, that Looney once helped start a PAC to encourage new leaders.
Looney said, however, that his PAC didn't take corporate money. Much PAC financing is akin to a money laundering scheme, he said, and he's right.
The fake ethics amendment that ended corporate campaign contributions to candidates didn't end corporate contributions to PACs. PAC money (and political party committee money) steps in handily for candidates like Smith, particularly incumbents. His campaign reports are an illustration of the emptiness of the notion that the "ethics" amendment accomplished much. If it weren't for money from PACs — nursing homes, dentists, real estate, politician PACs like those run by Asa Hutchinson and Tim Griffin, and other Republican leadership PACs, among others — Smith would have little money at all. And those PACs that contributed to him would have had little money to give out but for special interest money and corporate money (the Asa PAC is larded with corporate money from all over the country, tobacco money on down).
Looney said he'd introduce legislation to end the corporate loophole on campaign finance.
If you've time, watch the video. You'll see some sharp differences on public policy issues by candidates well-prepared to debate. I've-got-mine Tea Party politics or a helping hand for those in need that might pay future dividends. Two years ago, the former won.
Looney closed by emphasizing hope over fear. That is the theme for the year and not just in Jonesboro.
Since scheduling the executions of eight inmates over the course of 11 days, Governor Hutchinson has said little publicly on the topic. Today, at meeting with press at the Governor's Mansion, Hutchinson acknowledged that it was unlikely he would grant executive clemency to any of the seven men scheduled to die beginning Monday. /more/
The Senate today approved SB 724 to provide exemptions from a new expanded concealed weapon bill to allow them to be banned from college athletic events. The vote was 23-7 and the bill goes to the governor. /more/
Appearances count. I was struck by a single sentence over the weekend in a full page of coverage in The New York Times devoted to the killing spree in Arkansas, beginning with a front-page account of the recent flurry of legal filings on pending executions and continuing inside with an interview with Damien Echols, the former death row inmate.
Early this morning, attorneys for nine Death Row inmates, filed an argument with the 8th United States Court of Appeals contesting the state's effort to override Judge Kristine Baker's order Saturday that halted executions scheduled this month.
Don Davis, who's been moved to the killing facility of the state prison for killing tonight at 7 p.m. if a stay of execution is lifted in another federal suit, sought a stay in another federal court Sunday, but the request was denied.
Russell Racop has filed, as promised, his lawsuit over the State Police's refusal — under guidance from Attorney General Leslie Rutledge — to release records that provide information that led to the firing of current Alcoholic Beverage Control Enforcement Director Boyce Hamlet as a state trooper.
Rep. Michael John Gray of Augusta has been elected leader of the House Democratic Caucus, the minority party. He succeeds Rep. Eddie Armstrong of North Little Rock. He's a farmer and small business owner.
Arkansas Times contributor Jacob Rosenberg is at the Cummins Unit in Grady filing dispatches tonight in advance of the expected execution of Ledell Lee, who was sentenced to death for the Feb. 9, 1993, murder of Debra Reese, 26, who was beaten to death in the bedroom of her home in Jacksonville.
Ledbetter, the former state Board of Education chair who cast the decisive vote in 2015 to take over the LRSD, writes that Education Commissioner Johnny Key "has shown time and again that he is out of touch with our community and the needs of the district." However, Ledbetter supports the May 9 vote as a positive for the district's students and staff.
The family of a 4-year-old girl from Harrison who fell from a moving church bus on April 19 issued a statement through their attorney yesterday, asking for privacy as the investigation into the incident continues. The family said the girl is still receiving medical care related to the incident — caught on a paramedic's dashboard camera — in which she opened the back door of a moving church bus and was flung to the pavement, with the bus driving away.
A non-profit group devoted to science education has announced their plan to move one of the largest refracting telescopes in the America to Northwest Arkansas. They are currently fundraising to cover the moving costs for the vintage telescope, which they hope to make the centerpiece of a science and technology center.
The Arkansas Department of Correction is planning for the first double execution in the U.S. in 16 years tonight. Jack Jones, 52, and Marcell Williams, 46, are scheduled to die by lethal injection. They would be the second and third prisoners put to death as part of a hurried schedule Governor Hutchinson set in advance of the state's supply of one of the three drugs used in the execution protocol expiring on April 30.
David Sachar with the state Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission announced today that a letter of admonishment has been issued to Fifth Judicial Circuit Judge William "Bill" Pearson, who blew through a DWI checkpoint near Clarksville in January before leading police on a short pursuit until a State Trooper disabled his truck by running into it.
Photos taken Thursday night by Brian Chilson and David Koon, at Cummins Prison in Grady, the State Police barricade away from the prison and in front of the Governor's Mansion, before and after the execution of Ledell Lee.