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Families first 

As a boy, I learned a lot from the values my parents lived everyday — hard work, faith in God, living within your means, and doing right by others. Those are values Shanti and I work to teach our daughters, and they're values that most Arkansas families are providing their children, too.

Arkansans are offended by Washington and Wall Street, which are sending a completely different set of messages to our families.

They've been lining their pockets with insider deals, and too often they've been sticking Arkansas families with the bill. While Washington has changed some in recent years, it's clear that we haven't yet changed the special-interest culture that helped put our economy into the mess it's in now.

For example, look at how late and lame the Senate's response to financial regulatory reform has been. The bill that's supposed to make sure this mess never happens again is an important step forward, but it doesn't include something we badly need: a strongly independent consumer financial protection agency. Such an agency would help avoid a repeat of the disaster that has been visited on Arkansas families and small businesses.

An independent agency will take on one of our toughest problems: Elected officials too willing to do the bidding of special interests. And too many senators gave Wall Street a big bailout with no strings attached, and are still taking Wall Street's side, while leaving key needs unaddressed.

For another example, just this past week, the Senate adjourned for vacation without extending the unemployment benefits that help many unemployed individuals pay the bills while they look for work. This means that on April 5, thousands of Arkansans will lose access to the badly-needed safety net that unemployment provides.

Arkansans have worked hard to keep their families secure during the worst economic conditions in the last 25 years. We can't have politicians putting their vacations ahead of getting their own jobs done.

If I were in the Senate right now there is no way I would leave town without making sure the Arkansas families who are struggling the most are taken care of. It's time for the Senate to get back to the work of taking care of Arkansas workers, and getting our economy going again.

I'm running for Senate to take on the go-along-to-get-along culture that defines Washington. To make sure I'm reflecting Arkansans' priorities, I've promised to hold a town hall meeting in every county in Arkansas, every year I'm in the Senate.  And just as I turned down a pay raise as lieutenant governor, I'll never take a pay raise in the Senate until we get our budget balanced. And I will never become a lobbyist.

It's past time we had a senator who will stand up to special interests.

Together we can put Arkansas families first.

Max Brantley invited the Democratic candidates for U.S. Senate to contribute columns on subjects of their choice while he's on vacation. U.S. Sen. Blanche Lincoln will write next week.

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