Caught with other constitutional officers in a small scandal about failure to pay taxes on use of state-owned vehicles, state Treasurer Martha Shoffner was irrationally defiant. While most of her fellow office-holders mumbled apologies and wrote checks, albeit reluctantly, Shoffner declared she was entitled to tax-free use of a state car, and practically dared taxpayers to try to collect from her. Still not concentrating, she took a swipe at Governor Beebe, who wasn't driving a state car, but only because, Shoffner said, he had a "manservant" to drive him, this apparently a reference to the state trooper/bodyguard who chauffeurs the governor. (The heat, perhaps, has contributed to an unseemly bickering in the executive branch of government. Last week, Attorney General Dustin McDaniel was poking at Lt. Gov. Bill Halter.) Beebe and State Police officers were offended by the "manservant" remark, and just about everyone was offended by Shoffner's arrogant acquisitiveness. The Republican Party was wishing it had run someone – anyone – for treasurer.

Eventually, Shoffner wised up, somewhat. Advisers persuaded her to pledge payment of the taxes, and to apologize for the "manservant" line, which she said was intended to be light-hearted. Playfulness is not the first quality people seek in a treasurer.

The previously unopposed Shoffner may have talked herself into an opponent nonetheless. The Green Party can still put a candidate on the ballot, and at this point, any alternative to Shoffner would have strong support.

Martha Shoffner can go off at odd angles, but Republican Party bosses are making sure John Boozman doesn't vary from his assigned path. Taking orders is something Boozman does well. It's natural to him to make no unauthorized moves, think no unauthorized thoughts.

Running against Sen. Blanche Lincoln, Boozman's principal assignment is to say "No!" to everything that President Obama proposes, whether healthcare for the sick or emergency aid for the jobless, and to follow up these denials with criticism of Obama for being uncooperative and excessively partisan. The congressman will save his affirmatives for the Wall Street operators who've invested heavily in him. Lincoln helped write new legislation to impede the financial adventurers who nearly caused the collapse of the American economy. They should be grateful to her for saving them from themselves. They are not.

The Lincoln-Boozman race tests the theory that voters want less party loyalty in their congressmen, as some claim. Lincoln disagrees with her fellow Democrats about as often as not; there's no danger of her caving in to Harry Reid or Barack Obama. Boozman votes a straight Republican line. He might disappoint Arkansas, but he won't disappoint Mitch McConnell.



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