Ethics campaigner explores race for 2nd District Congress | Arkansas Blog

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Ethics campaigner explores race for 2nd District Congress

Posted By on Wed, May 31, 2017 at 5:49 PM

PAUL SPENCER: Exploring congressional race.
  • PAUL SPENCER: Exploring congressional race.

I've learned Paul Spencer, the teacher and long-time campaigner for stronger ethics laws, filed paperwork this afternoon to form an exploratory committee to run as a Democrat for 2nd District Congress, a seat now held by Republican French Hill.

Spencer, 50, who teaches at Catholic High and grows pecans and raises bees near his home in Scott, hasn't made a formal announcement yet. But I've talked with him enough over the years to figure some of what to expect.

1. The influence of money in politics. He'll continue to press this. He'll be no fan of Citizens United. He'll have good reason to decry how the political class finds ways around even the most modest of initiatives, such as the state constitutional amendment his group backed to prevent lobbyist wining and dining of legislators. It was promptly and broadly circumvented by legislative workarounds.

2. Health care. There'll be plenty to say if Spencer is the nominee (no other Democrats have emerged, but several are talking) about French Hill's vote for the devastating Obamacare repeal.

Spencer has had little association with partisan politics over the years. Years ago, he once told me, he often voted Republican. But he's left-leaning on most issues (a notable exception is his pro-life position as a practicing Catholic). He also once described himself to me as a "Berniecrat." In the health context, this would translate to Medicare for all to achieve universal and portable coverage.

This is an uphill climb. A big part of the 2nd District (outside Pulaski County) is now reflexively Republican. French Hill, if he doesn't win a Trump appointment to something before then, will have all the money he needs. Spencer, given his past, isn't likely to take corporate or PAC money. He has made plenty of friends in good government circles through Regnat Populus, but those aren't enormous circles, even if in his case it includes some national soldiers in the ethics cause. His name recognition is small.

There's a chance that the Democratic Party structure, such as it exists, might be cool to his candidacy for his being a party outsider and for being pro-life. I hope not. The party should hope for new-face candidates with proven records on important issues. The tent also should be big enough to include pro-life candidates, particularly if, as I suspect, Spencer is a kinder pro-life candidate than the typical Republican. By that I mean he seems likely to focus more on initiatives to discourage the need for abortion than to punish those who seek them.

Don't get me wrong, all other things being equal, if a choice came down to a solidly pro-choice candidate versus a pro-life candidate, I'm voting choice.  But there are a lot of issues and qualities that roll into that all-things-being-equal decision — health care, guns, taxes, equal rights for women and minorities and more.

More to come.

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