Posts Tagged ‘Blanche Lincoln’
Arkansas, you run deep in me.
That’s a line from the state song. But this week, red ran deep in this Blue Dog state that is just this side of wacky. No doubt, Bill Clinton has to be crying somewhere. His home state slipped completely down the rabbit hole.
On Tuesday night, Democrats were hyperventilating as the party lost several state offices along with two congressional seats, seven state senate seats and 16 state house seats. Both houses of the state legislature remain Democratic, but some Democrats are worried that a few conservative colleagues might flip Republican in exchange for committee chairs once the session starts in January. If that happens, Republicans would be the majority for the first time since the Reconstruction Era.
For decades, Republicans were tucked away in northwest Arkansas near the Oklahoma and Missouri borders. Occasionally, one of the rascals would pop up in central Arkansas like in the 1980 gubernatorial race when the late businessman Frank White challenged one-term governor Clinton and won. Mike Huckabee succeeded in the 1990s, but the state remained a conservative shade of blue for the most part. This week the map changed to neon red, flashing a warning to Democrats as they regroup for 2012.
It was no surprise that Democratic Sen. Blanche Lincoln lost to her GOP challenger, Rep. John Boozman. But the state that gave the country its first elected female senator — Hattie Caraway — in 1938 now has no female representation in Washington. In fact, the state only has Martha Shoffner as its treasurer with a handful of women winning legislative seats. But Lincoln’s race was predictable compared to many others.
In Hot Springs, where Clinton graduated from high school, voters chose a dead Republican over a living, breathing Democrat in a state house race. Keith Crass died last week from a heart attack, but that didn’t stop voters from checking the box for him. Now, a special election will be called.
In another county near Little Rock, a Republican who struggled with a hot check history and an outstanding tax lien during his campaign defeated the longtime Democratic prosecuting attorney whose office prosecuted the hot check cases.
Usually Arkansas’ secretary of state races are a boring blowout for Democrats. Even when former first lady Janet Huckabee was the GOP nominee in 2002, few fireworks ignited. This year, the race pitted two candidates with popular, famous names against each other. Republican Mark Martin, a businessman, shared his name with a famous Arkansas race car driver. Democrat Pat O’Brien, a well-known and popular county clerk in Little Rock, was seldom confused with the New Orleans bar with the same name. Martin upset O’Brien in a race that lasted long after the chips had become stale at their watch parties.
Amazingly, one of the most popular governors in the country, Democrat Mike Beebe, held on to his seat by a wide margin. But in another stunner, Mark Darr, a political novice who owns a pizza parlor, upset longtime legislator Shane Broadway to become lieutenant governor. Democrats remember that is the seat from which Huckabee began his political career back in 1993 and moved up when Gov. Jim Guy Tucker resigned in the wake of Clinton’s Whitewater scandals.
Blue Dog Rep. Mike Ross will now be the sole Democrat in the state’s congressional delegation. He ran against Beth Anne Rankin, a former Miss Arkansas (1994) and Huckabee staffer who channeled Sarah Palin by upsweeping her red hair, donning rimless glasses and posing with a big gun. The makeover didn’t work, but Rankin will no doubt resurface again in Arkansas politics.
At least a few shining moments exist in Clintonland this week. Voters chose to allow two dry counties to sell alcohol. Depressed Dems can now find a new watering hole or two to visit. One of the counties also happens to be home to one of the biggest Ku Klux Klan organizations in America.
Then there’s the on-going Clint McCance saga. Most of the state’s politicians didn’t say much about the now ex-school board member’s gay tirade on Facebook. But leave it to a popular gay Star Trek actor, George Takei (Sulu in the original TV series), to say what politicians wouldn’t. In a viral video, he takes McCance down a peg or three. Arkansas runs deep in Takei, too. During World War II, he and his family stayed in a Japanese internment camp in south Arkansas.
Something is now brewing in this state that Takei briefly called home in the 1940s. It’s now a place where some conservative Democrats will use God, guns and gays to take out a liberal Democrat. That was ammunition once reserved for the right-wing contingent from northwest Arkansas. In past years, independent voters usually trend Democratic. They didn’t in this election. Bill Clinton also once had an influence. Not so this year. Scholars say that the Democratic Party could come back stronger in the next few election cycles. Then again, red runs deep here now.
BATESVILLE, Ark. – President Bill Clinton descended on this small college town Wednesday with a mission: To stop the Republican wave threatening his state.
An hour and half away from Little Rock in north-central Arkansas, Batesville sits on the edge of the 1st Congressional District, which has been Democratic since the Reconstruction Era. This district is the bluest of the Blue Dog districts, and like most of Arkansas, it withstood the GOP’s national gains over the last 30 years.
But today, incumbent Democratic Sen. Blanche Lincoln is in the political fight of her life against Republican John Boozman.
And here in the 1st CD, Chad Causey, the Democrat hoping to replace retiring Rep. Marion Berry, is lagging 12 points behind Republican Rick Crawford.
On Wednesday, with Causey at his side and Fleetwood Mac’s “Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow” blaring in the background, Clinton walked onto the community college auditorium stage and did his best to rally the crowd of 300.
Clinton framed his message around football, telling those in the crowd that they need to look at politics like a football game. He said football fans know every stat when it comes to their favorite teams, and voters should have that same focus.
Clinton sprinkled his speech with references to Lincoln, chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee, and planned to attend a campaign rally for her in an airplane hangar in Jonesboro on Wednesday night. Lincoln represented the 1st CD for two terms during Clinton’s presidency.
The 1st CD remains a critical bulwark for Arkansas Democrats, said Jay Barth, a political science professor at Hendrix College in Conway, Ark.
“I do see it as a firewall for the Democrats’ hopes of maintaining the U.S. House,” said Barth. “If they lose a district like that, any hopes of Nancy Pelosi being re-elected speaker are gone. I’m not as sure that if the 1st goes Republican, that it’s gone forever for the party. That said, a loss there (along with loses in the 2nd Congressional District and U.S. Senate race) would be psychologically devastating to the Arkansas Democratic Party. And, we know that political dynamics are driven to a great degree by psychology.”
No one knows that better than Clinton, who kept the crowd spellbound as he spoke. He received loud applause numerous times throughout his speech. Clinton lashed out at the Bush administration and the eight years that the Republican Congress borrowed money from China to pay for two wars and a senior drug package.
“If ever there was an example of not watching the game film, this is it,” he said, adding that Republicans have forgotten the deficit they created. “The game film shows the facts.”
Clinton then became more passionate as he reeled off one economic fact after another. “I am the most fiscally responsible president you’ve had in your lifetime,” he said to explosive applause.
He added that it is too early – 21 months – to elect a new team.
“They [the Republicans] are playing you folks — don’t be played,” Clinton said.
Calling Bill Clinton. That’s the S.O.S. sounding among Arkansas Democrats.
The former president returns to his home state this week with a schedule chock full of fundraisers, including a breakfast Thursday morning for incumbent Sen. Blanche Lincoln. She faces an uphill battle against Republican Rep. John Boozman.
In a year when having an “R” by your name could mean easy victory, the question is whether Clinton can save Democratic candidates in Arkansas.
Clinton is the most in-demand Democrat on the campaign trail this year. Arkansas Democrats say he plans to spend a lot of time in the state to rally the troops – and what’s left of his political machine – to victory in the fall. But Clinton has his work cut out for him.
Arkansas has traditionally trended red in the presidential column. The only exceptions since 1972 are Jimmy Carter’s election in 1976 and Clinton’s in 1992 and re-election in 1996. Arkansas Democrats have long controlled Congress, the legislature and county seats, but that might change this cycle.
“I think that Clinton can instill a measure of energy, enthusiasm and commitment in party activists that will carry them forward in the next eight weeks,” said Hal Bass, a political science professor at Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia, Ark. “I think he can also provide a reminder of legitimacy for traditional Democrats who may sense that the landscape has shifted, leaving them on the outside. I think these efforts can be effective at the margins.”
The Democratic Party of Arkansas sent out an e-mail earlier this week touting Clinton’s events in the state Wednesday and Thursday.
His first appearance of the day was at a luncheon for Second Congressional District candidate Joyce Elliott at the Copper Grill, a few blocks from his presidential library. Elliott volunteered on both of Clinton’s presidential campaigns.
If she wins, Elliott would be the first black elected to Congress in Arkansas. A recent poll shows Elliott down 35 percent to her Republican opponent, Tim Griffin, a former Bush White House aide, with 52 percent. The seat has been held by Democratic Rep. Vic Snyder since 1996.
Clinton spoke harshly about Griffin to reporters Wednesday after the Elliott fundraiser.
“There is none of the kind of ethical problems and political-abuse-of-power charges and all those other things that have come out against her opponent. And the main thing is he wants to join that group of people that will go back and do those things that got us in trouble in the first place. It’s not about blaming them for the past — it is about what they want to do tomorrow,” Clinton said.
Griffin has said Arkansans are rejecting Elliott’s campaign because she would be working with the Obama Administration.
Following Clinton’s remarks, Griffin responded: “We are focused on private sector job creation and getting our fiscal house in order, and folks are responding to our positive campaign.”
Griffin has been accused by Democrats of keeping blacks and other Democratic voters in Florida away from polls in the 2004 presidential election. At the time he worked for the Republican National Committee. He has also been accused of a role in the U.S. attorney scandal in 2006, which forced the resignation of seven top Justice Department officials, including the attorney general of the United States.
Clinton also appeared at a fundraiser at his old haunt, Doe’s Eat Place, for long-time friend Carolyn Staley, who is running for the state legislature.
After that, he popped into a house party for First Congressional District candidate Chad Causey, who has served as Rep. Marion Berry’s chief of staff for five years. A Talk Business poll shows Causey down 32 percent to Republican Rick Crawford’s 48 percent. Causey’s grandfather, Hugh Ashley, campaigned for Clinton during his gubernatorial races.
“The various and sundry candidates can bask in his glow, to their benefit,” Bass said. “They can also benefit from listening to, and imitating, his rhetoric. Clinton knows how to frame a campaign argument effectively. However, I don’t see him sweeping in, and through his charisma, restoring the landscape to reflect its traditional Democratic advantage. At best, he can begin to level the playing field for the remainder of the campaign season.”
Clinton closed the day with a celebration for Lincoln’s first anniversary as chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee. He campaigned with Lincoln in May during her tough primary campaign against Lt. Gov. Bill Halter. After a rally with Clinton, the dynamics of the race changed. Lincoln squeaked out a win in the June run-off.
Clinton acknowledged to reporters earlier in the day that Lincoln may be the most endangered incumbent this year, but stressed Lincoln’s position on the committee.
He said the chair is “not only the leader in agriculture policy but controls development funds for small towns in rural America, and she has delivered over and over and over again. So I think if she can make it about the issues, what do we need to do, who’s most likely to do it, as opposed to anger, apathy and amnesia, I think she can still win this race.”
Just hours before her evening celebration, Lincoln announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture has agreed to purchase up to $30 million of poultry products for federal food-nutrition-assistance programs, providing a boost to Arkansas’s poultry industry and economy. The poultry industry represents one of every six jobs in Arkansas.
At the packed event held inside a ballroom at Little Rock’s train station, Clinton told the crowd that it would be a “terrible mistake” for voters not to re-elect Lincoln, especially given her standing as agriculture chair. She is the first woman and first Arkansan to hold that position.
He hammered home that Republicans want Democratic and independent voters to feed on anger, apathy and amnesia — his theme for the day.
Neither Clinton nor Lincoln ever mentioned Boozman by name. Clinton said that Republicans want to repeal health care reform, privatize Social Security and Medicare and halt the stimulus plan.
Clinton said angry voters should use caution when making a decision: “When you make a decision when you’re mad, there’s about an 80 percent chance you’ll make a mistake. It’s having nothing to do about politics,” he said. “Think about your whole life.”
And what should Democrats do to win in November? “Get out and tell our side of the story,” Clinton said.
The girl basked in a plate of greasy food fit for a hard-working lumberjack.
She sat in a Waffle House — a chain restaurant hardly known for its slimming fare — and chowed down on a ham and cheese omelet, hash browns, a waffle, two pieces of toast. She drank a vanilla Coke oozing with corn syrup. There may have been a bowl of grits involved — although that might have been on her mother’s mammoth order. The girl had not reached 12 yet. She wasn’t chubby with baby fat. No, she was on the road to obesity.
The image haunts me even now, a few weeks later.
While we pretend to eat healthy and shun processed foods, America is hardly an organic, toned wonderland. As one colleague wondered recently, are there more large-sized people around or has public education made her more aware of the problem?
The answer: America is getting larger. The nation hooked on super-sized portions is becoming super-sized itself.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there has been a drastic increase in obesity rates during the last 20 years. In 2009, only Colorado and the District of Columbia had a prevalence of obesity less than 20 percent. Since the 1970s, obesity among children has drastically increased, even those ages 2 to 5 — from 5 percent to 12.4 percent. Sixty-four percent of Americans are considered overweight or obese.
This is far from comforting.
The causes are vast. Children and adults park in front of computers and TVs and don’t move. They consume more calories than they burn off with exercise. The country is hooked on processed foods with such additives as high fructose corn syrup and massive amounts of sodium.
Fresh produce is hard to get, or expensive, especially in low-income areas. The bottom line: It’s cheaper to eat unhealthy than it is to eat healthy. In one study, the Food Trust in Philadelphia and D.C. Hunger Solutions found health problems to be greater in neighborhoods that lack grocers offering fresh produce and other healthy food options.
Ironically, this is most true in the agricultural rural South, a region known for its greasy, fatty fried foods (fried cookie dough, anyone?) and ever-increasing poverty levels.
Bill Clinton’s home state of Arkansas has been No. 1 on the obesity chart and, conversely, No. 1 in child food insecurity, which means that 26.6 percent of children lack access at various times to enough food for an active, healthy lifestyle. Nonetheless, the state was a leader in combating fat, long before first lady Michelle Obama seized the cause.
Former Gov. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas, who was overweight himself at one time, led the healthy charge in 2003 when he signed Act 1220 — a multi-pronged initiative to get Arkansas’ children healthy. One key component was measuring the body mass index of children and sending reports to parents or guardians.
Joy Rockenbach, project director for Arkansas Center for Health Improvement, says that Arkansas has enacted numerous initiatives in public schools to make students healthier. For example, there are no longer vending machines in elementary schools. But they are still in middle and high schools — although not available until 30 minutes after lunch. Teachers can’t offer candy as rewards nor can they take activity time away as a punishment.
But adults need to become healthy, too.
Rockenbach says that the Arkansas Coalition for Obesity Prevention, like many similar groups in other states, has also given grants for community efforts. One town’s mayor declared that only water can be sold in vending machines in city-owned parks. Other towns have created or expanded their community gardens as well as walking trails. In one African-American neighborhood in Little Rock, the community bought a corner produce market and is building tilapia tanks for fresh fish.
Last week, the Senate passed the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, which was sponsored by Sen. Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas. It will provide an additional $4.5 billion over 10 years to federal child nutrition programs, including school lunches, once it is signed into law. It’s the first government increase in the program since 1973.
The bill allocates $1.2 billion to increase the number of children receiving food. The rest of the money would be used to improve the quality of school meals, including an extra six cents per meal per student for schools that meet new, stricter nutrition standards and money for schools to establish gardens and to use local foods in cafeterias.
For all the legislation and government intervention, I still wonder about the girl at Waffle House. Remember chubby kids in your school? Sure you do. Cruel kids repeatedly picked on them.
In the 1980s, flamboyant exercise guru Richard Simmons was everywhere touting healthy lifestyles and talking about his life as the fat kid. It shaped — literally — his adult life.
“When people tell you you are ugly, no good, fat, your self image is so low you don’t care if you open a refrigerator and pull up a chair,” Simmons, who visits hundreds of schools a year, told me. “
He’s been working on legislation, too, helping push through the Fit Kids Act, which would amend No Child Left Behind to ensure children are active during the school day and learn to stay healthy through diet and exercise. Earlier this year, a version passed the House but has stalled in the Senate.
“You don’t have to have Washington tell you what to do though,” Simmons said. “Eat a salad instead of the frozen pizza. Take a walk. You have to retrain your brain. But, in this country, sadly, there’s always a $1 cheeseburger somewhere and parents buy them for themselves and their children. It’s going to take a lot of changes, sacrifice, but we should say, ‘Americans your exercise excuse card is filled.’ “
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — A flurry of radio and television ads hit the Arkansas airwaves Monday, just as early voting began in the state’s intense, three-way Democratic Senate primary race.
The campaign stressed that the company never outsourced jobs to India at the expense of American jobs, but that jobs in India were added.
Lincoln condemned the ads Saturday in a press release, saying that “they had no place in Arkansas.”
“As a victim myself of constant negative attack ads by outside third party groups since early March, I deeply regret that their participation in this campaign isn’t more constructive,” she said.
That seven percent may find their candidate in mystery man, D.C. Morrison.
Morrison, a business owner, has never run for office nor been heavily involved in politics. At the first debate between the three of them, Morrison said he thought global warming was a hoax. He also suggested that Lincoln had been in office too long and said that senators should have a 12-year term limit.
So far, Lincoln hasn’t announced where her tour will stop.
Eight Republicans are vying for their party’s nomination. Polls show Rep. John Boozman in the lead.
On Friday night, Americans for Job Security launched a television commercial featuring Indians in their native dress superimposed over scenes from a foreign street bazaar. In the ad, the Asians thank Halter for outsourcing jobs to Bangalore, India. The ad sent shock waves through Arkansas political circles on both sides.
Americans for Job Security has bought $780,925 worth of television air time in Little Rock, Fort Smith and Jonesboro – the state’s three big media markets – from May 3 to May 14.
On Saturday morning Lincoln denounced the ad.
“I condemn the television ad reportedly scheduled to air in Arkansas sponsored by a group called Americans for Job Security,” Lincoln said. “It is offensive and doesn’t belong in Arkansas. As a victim myself of constant negative attack ads by outside third party groups since early March, I deeply regret that their participation in this campaign isn’t more constructive.”
In a debate on April 24, Halter said to Lincoln, “Why don’t you ask the folks who are running ads claiming that I am privatizing Social Security to identify themselves? We have no idea who they are.” Lincoln said she would like the third parties to make their identities clear, “instead of making cagy names, or putting them at the bottom of their ads, or their postcards, or anything else.”
Americans for Job Security does not attribute any source for the statements against Halter that it makes in its commercial.
“The ad repeats a charge that is false — the company on whose board Lt. Gov. Bill Halter served expanded its operations in India and there is no evidence that it outsourced jobs” the Halter campaign said in a statement. “Meanwhile, thousands of Arkansans have seen their jobs shipped overseas thanks to votes from Sen. Lincoln.” Lincoln supported NAFTA, CAFTA, and other trade deals.
Eight Republicans are vying for the party’s nomination on May 18. And a recent poll shows Halter as a stronger candidate than Lincoln against any of them in the General Election. In Washington, the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics has described Americans for Job Security as “pro-Republican.”
But the conservative Chamber of Commerce apparently prefers Sen. Lincoln at this stage of the campaign, and has purchased an additional $600,000 worth of ads on her behalf.
According to a 2004 article in the Texas Observer, Americans for job security is a 501 (c) (6) organization. The article said that it’s “estimated the group has spent about $26 million on political races all over the nation, including $8.5 million in 2002 and $7.5 million in 2000.” The group’s website states “Americans for Job Security has been active with issue advocacy campaigns in over 98 media markets in 46 States and the District of Columbia.” Started in 1997, the site states that the group is “the only independent, bipartisan, pro-business issue advocacy organization in America.” It has raised $40 million in membership dues.
And its members? From The group’s website: “Our members are businesses, business leaders and entrepreneurs from around the country. AJS does not disclose or discuss its membership further than this. Too often politicians or the media define an organization or message not by the merits of the argument, but rather by the perception of the people associated with it. We would rather the people decide on merits, instead of name-calling.”