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Blanche Lincoln vs. Bill Halter in Round Two of Arkansas Senate Fight

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – This Race is About Arkansas, Not Outside Groups.
That’s U.S. Sen. Blanche Lincoln’s mantra as she gears up for a June 8 Democratic runoff with Lt. Gov. Bill Halter.
Neither candidate received 50 percent of the primary vote, guaranteeing three more weeks of testy campaigning. Lincoln received 44.3 percent to Halter’s 42.5 percent. The third candidate, DC Morrison, who aligned more with the Tea Party than with Democrats, garnered a stunning13 percent.
A Democracy for American / Research 2000 poll after the primary showed Halter with 48 percent and Lincoln with 46 percent. In November, Halter or Lincoln will face Republican U.S. Rep. John Boozman, who beat seven opponents with 53 percent.
The message Lincoln now stresses: It’s time for outside interests to leave Arkansas. “I am grateful for the Arkansas voters who recognized that this campaign is not about the outside groups trying to exert influence here,” she said. “This race is about Arkansas.”
The race may, indeed, be about Arkansas, but outside groups have had plenty to do with it — and will probably continue to do so.
Lincoln’s FEC reports from the last days of the primary show that she received thousands of dollars from groups as varied as the National Turkey Federation PAC in Washington, Marathon Oil Company Employees PAC in Ohio, and the Pono PAC in Hawaii.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce spent money on her behalf during the primary as did several third party groups, including Americans for Job Security, a pro-business group launched by the insurance industry in 1997. It spent $780,925 on one television buy.
Halter, too, has benefitted from out-of-state PACs and netroots organizations. In the initial days of his campaign, the liberal raised more than $2 million for him. The group sent out a fundraising plea Tuesday night asking for $200,000 in “emergency funds” for the runoff.
He also has the support of unions — a sore spot for Lincoln who won their support in previous campaigns. On Wednesday, the AFL-CIO said it would spend whatever was needed to defeat Lincoln, in part because she opposed the Employee Free Choice Act, a bill that would make it easier to unionize workers.
As for the tone of the contest, Lincoln has had a change of heart about negative campaigning.

On Wednesday morning, the Lincoln campaign took down a website called “Dollar Bill Halter.” Lincoln frequently pinned the nickname on her opponent, saying that “he’ll do anything to make a buck — even sitting on the boards of companies sued for defrauding investors.”

Halter vehemently denied the accusation. He pleaded with Lincoln in an April debate to take down the website after his campaign removed a website that referred to her as “Bailout Blanche,” a reference to Lincoln’s vote supporting the financial bailout and what the Halter campaign called her coziness with the banking industry.
The candidates find themselves in a runoff in large part because of businessman DC Morrison. He had never run for political office, spent little money, and ran no television ads. Morning-after pundits suggested that Republicans crossed over to vote for Morrison to extend the race and weaken Lincoln further in a runoff. But political scholars disagree.
“That would have taken the kind of singular, sustained commitment most people lack,” says Janine Parry, professor and Arkansas Poll director at the University of Arkansas. “To boot, with so many interesting, high-profile primary races for the U.S. House, why would so many Republicans take that risk, i.e., forego participation in one or more races of nearly equal interest and significance?”
On the campaign trail and in ads, Lincoln touted extensively her chairmanship on the Senate Agricultural committee. Still, she lost several farming counties, some of which are part of 26 “swing” counties that often play a decisive role in every election. Halter won 20 of those 26.
“They are disproportionately white, rural, and gave McCain an average of 63 percent of their ’08 votes as compared with 59 percent statewide,” says Parry. “Easy math is Halter hangs on to his votes and he picks up the non-Lincoln votes and that sets with conventional wisdom. But I don’t think he can count on that. He’ll have to work for it.”
Lincoln left Arkansas Wednesday morning for Washington to participate in a cloture vote on Senate financial reform package. Derivatives legislation that she authored is part of that package. She is counting on a high-profile visit on May 28 for former president Bill Clinton to help her get-out-the-vote effort.
And Halter? He waved a sign Wednesday morning to thank supporters. He’ll be back at it Thursday morning at an intersection and asking voters to make a return trip to the ballot box.

Written by suziparker1313

March 2, 2011 at 7:04 pm

Posted in Politics

Tagged with ,

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