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When Jim Lagrone, the former Baptist preacher and Republican candidate for secretary of state, announced he’d be seeking statewide office this year, he opened with a hysterical fund-raising letter. It said a vote for Republicans was vital because Democrats were a threat to the “Arkansas way of life” on account of alleged tolerance of gays, gun control and abortion. He responded to our criticism by saying those were words of a campaign consultant, since replaced, not his own and that he regretted the rhetoric. “That’s not me,” he said.

Lagrone’s candidacy still held some appeal. Incumbent Charlie Daniels has blundered in oversight of election procedures; he’s blind to nepotism; he’s been an ally of some of the worst in the legislature.

Despite this rich target, Lagrone couldn’t resist pulpit-style exaggeration. He has repeatedly overstated Daniels’ responsibility for hiccups in implementation of a huge new voting system and he can’t resist demagoguery. Just last week, the Democrat-Gazette caught him in a whopper. Lagrone’s campaign — and the candidate himself — had repeatedly blamed Daniels for the failure of Lagrone’s son to get an absentee vote counted in 2004 while serving in Iraq. Lagrone was forced to admit his son was not in Iraq at the time. The Saline County clerk had sent a ballot to young Lagrone — temporarily in Mississippi. Lagrone’s false statements were the result of a “miscommunication,” he said. He also said he was embarrassed. “If I don’t have my integrity, what do I have?” he asked us.

Answer: Apparently nothing.

Within hours after his sorrowful apology, Lagrone was again on the stump peddling the story that Charlie Daniels had kept his son from getting his ballot in Mississippi. Then it got worse. From the Baxter Bulletin in Mountain Home:

“On Wednesday, Lagrone told the Mountain Home crowd ‘off the record’ that he blamed the ‘liberal press.’

“ ‘Anytime you stand up for the American military, anytime you stand up for them, the liberal press is going to take you down at any chance they can,’ ” he said.

How dishonest is this? The Democrat-Gazette is nobody’s idea of a liberal newspaper. Daniels is a military veteran, Lagrone is not. Col. John Edwards, a veteran of the Iraq war, has testified in these pages about how hard Daniels worked to get soldiers their ballots.

Stand up for the military? The liberals at the Arkansas Times want soldiers to stop dying for Bush’s lies and come home. Lagrone throws them up as human shields against wounds from his own dishonesty.

Sorry, Jim. That flag decal won’t get you into heaven anymore.




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