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Posts Tagged ‘Bill Halter

Arkansas’ Blanche Lincoln: A Modern Day Scarlett O’Hara

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Bill Clinton is calling Blanche Lincoln the comeback kid.

But, she’s more like Scarlett O’Hara.

Like Scarlett, Lincoln can beautifully ooze Southern charm and drawl in desperate times like those she faced against her Democratic Senate runoff opponent, Lt. Gov. Bill Halter, during the last few months. On Tuesday, Lincoln delivered a shocker worthy of a Southern gothic novel in her surprise win over Halter in a year when she had become the poster girl for anti-incumbent fervor. She’ll face Republican John Boozman in the fall.

Analysts and political scientists will Monday morning quarterback this race for weeks. Did the relentless progressive push hurt Halter in Blue Dog Arkansas? Did it weaken the clout of national unions? Was there gender gap?

There’s a simple point to be made: The average Arkansan doesn’t know MoveOn.org from butter beans. But they do know that they like a politician who sits down and eats a plate of fried catfish — or even raccoon — with them. Like her mentor Clinton before her, Lincoln plays the Southern politician card with the skill of a blackjack dealer. Her gamble paid off when she defeated Halter with 52 percent of the vote to his 48 percent.

Voters didn’t see a lot of Lincoln the Southerner before the primary. She was painted by her foes as a Washington insider with ties to Yankee groups like Goldman Sachs. She stayed in the Beltway and pushed complicated banking legislation that sounded like hogwash to voters sitting around a coffee shop on the courthouse square.

In Margaret Mitchell’s 1937 Pulitzer Prize-winning Southern novel, “Gone With The Wind,” Scarlett O’Hara is a Southern belle who changes her colors like a chameleon through the Civil War and Reconstruction to whatever ends are best for her.

Southern women who align with Scarlett wonder, “What Would Scarlett Do?” when the going gets tough.

At the conclusion of the movie version, when Rhett Butler doesn’t give a damn anymore, Scarlett, distraught, wonders what she will do. “Tara, oh, I’ll go home.”

That’s what Lincoln did.

On Monday, the day before the runoff against Halter, she began the day in Helena, her hometown on the edge of the Mississippi River, a faded glory of the Old South with crumbling plantation homes.

Helena sits in the Delta, the impoverished region that mirrors Appalachia. After the primary, it was questionable if Lincoln, the daughter of a farmer of a 1,500-acre rice and soybean farm, would win the counties in the region, even Phillips County, where she was born.

But her seventh-generation roots there prevailed. She won it with 61 percent to Halter’s 39 percent.

During the three-week runoff season, Lincoln dropped in on festivals, diners and county courthouses, pouring on the Southern sugar, especially in Arkansas’ First District, which she represented in Congress from 1993 to 1997. She lost several counties there on May 18. She gained most of them back in the runoff.

In places like Helena, Halter, a native of North Little Rock, was seen as a city boy who lacked the good ol’ boy gene.

Lincoln was helped when Clinton arrived in Arkansas on Memorial Day when her campaign appeared to be wilting like a gardenia. Clinton preached to the Democratic die-hards with red-faced fire and brimstone. Lincoln listened intently and she transformed instantly into a steel magnolia.

Where Halter would have never been credible standing on a tractor giving a campaign speech, Lincoln was. She did that very thing last week in southern Arkansas, while wearing a lavender pant suit.

After the primary, she basked in her position as the first female and first Arkansan to serve as chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee, posing for pictures with fresh boxes of produce from backyard gardens. Would Scarlett have done that? Yes, ma’am.

The old Blanche, who rode in a refitted school bus in her first political campaign and kept her congressional letterhead with her maiden name until it ran out to save taxpayer money, had returned.

It was the same Blanche from 1999 who told me in an interview, “Oh, I love for gentlemen to stand up when I come into the room or open the door for me, and I always make it a point to thank them for it. As I said, I like being a woman. And my mother always taught me that the best way for me to make sure a man acted like a gentleman was to make sure I acted like a lady.”

And she did.

In one of her closing ads, Lincoln, standing in a pasture, opted for a straight-in-the-camera direct approach. She said wistfully that she would rather lose the election “fighting for what’s right than win by turning my back on Arkansas.”

On Tuesday, when Lincoln and her husband voted at their Little Rock precinct, she thanked the elderly volunteer poll workers, shook hands with reporters and did a bit of cheerleading in front of a handful of supporters in the 95 degree heat.

Lincoln squeaked out a tough win. But as the vote count rolled in, Lincoln failed as a gracious Southern belle.

She trounced on Halter’s concession speech, giving her victory speech at Little Rock’s Union Station before he finished his remarks at the nearby Peabody Hotel — a serious faux paus in all political circles, Southern or otherwise. On Wednesday morning, she took an early flight to Washington because Senate duties called. Scarlett — always thinking of Scarlett — would have done the same thing.

But in this case, a quick morning-after cup of victory coffee with supporters would have been the polite thing to do.

Written by suziparker1313

March 2, 2011 at 7:39 pm

Bill Clinton Calls Arkansas Sen. Blanche Lincoln’s Opponent a Union Tool

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Bill Clinton’s message to Democrats here Friday about their heated two-way U.S. Senate battle was a simple one: a vote for incumbent Sen. Blanche Lincoln is a vote rank-and-file Arkansans, while a vote for Lt. Governor Bill Halter is a vote for outside labor unions and liberal activist groups.

Don’t be fooled, Clinton told the gathering of about 300 at Philander Smith College. The big, national unions supporting Halter are “using you and manipulating your vote,” he said.

Clinton returned to his home state Friday to lend support to the embattled Lincoln, who faces a contentious run-off with Halter on June 8. In the Arkansas Democratic primary earlier this month, Lincoln won 44.5 percent of the vote to Halter’s 42.5 percent. A third candidate, DC Morrison, won 13 percent. The winner of the runoff will face Republican Rep. John Boozman in the November Senate election.
A Research 2000 poll for Daily Kos this week showed Halter with 47 percent of the vote, Lincoln with 44 percent and 9 percent undecided. Both trail Boozman in a November match-up.
The presence of various third-party groups on behalf of both candidates – unions for Halter and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce for Lincoln – deeply muddies the political waters. The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) have spent millions in Arkansas, bringing in manpower to defeat Lincoln.
Clinton held up a copy of a Washington Post article and quoted from it about how national unions want to make Lincoln a poster child for “what happens when a Democrat crosses us.” The former president argued that the unions nationalized what should be an Arkansas-focused Senate race.
Historically, Arkansas has not been a strong union state. It’s a right-to-work state. In 2006, only 5.1 percent of non-agricultural workers in Arkansas belonged to unions, placing the state ahead of only five states in terms of union density. Alan Hughes, Arkansas AFL-CIO president since 1996, says that about 100,000 Arkansans and 11,000 retirees are members of various unions.
He discounts the poster child argument and the Lincoln camp’s argument that unions have sent thousands of people from around the country to Arkansas to work for Halter. “We are not trying to make her a poster child,” he said. “We are not trying to manipulate our people. We have gone time and time again to Senator Lincoln to talk about issues, and she has not listened. Our rank-and-file members decided to endorse Bill Halter, and then that decision goes to Washington. It’s Arkansans, working men and women, who are going door-to-door for Bill Halter.”
At Friday’s event, Lincoln cited her opposition to the Employee Free Choice Act , a bill that would make it easier to unionize workers, as the main reason labor is against her. She also said unions, which had backed her in 1998 but not in 2004, had turned on her. “I’m pretty independent minded,” she said. “I vote for my constituents.”

Hughes says it wasn’t the single issue of the Employee Free Choice Act that cost Lincoln union support, but a combination of issues. “It’s trade agreements, health care, you name it,” he said. “She tuned Arkansas out for a long time and look, she’s taken a lot of outside corporate money, too. And Clinton? He wanted our endorsement plenty of times when he was running.”

The Clinton event came at the end of a week that saw both campaigns jockeying for momentum by launching new ads.
Lincoln’s newest ad – “Breaking News” – is as an attempt to woo progressive voters more aligned with Halter. The opening shot features MSNBC television host Rachel Maddow discussing the Wall Street reform bill. In the ad, it appears that Maddow is a Lincoln supporter.
In reality, Maddow, during a March appearance in Little Rock, didn’t exactly have kind words about Lincoln, whom she considers too conservative. “It is one thing to be a moderate Democrat, to be a conservative Democrat. It’s another thing to seem not to want to be a Democrat,” she said.
Halter launched two ads this week. One features him shaking hands in diners and on street corners around the state. In the other one, Halter’s father tells voters to support his son.
The SEIU launched an ad linking Lincoln to former President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and big oil. AFSCME followed with an ad featuring a southern female narrator saying Lincoln has lost touch with Arkansas.

Lincoln would say the opposite.
“Outside groups need to go home,” she told reporters after the event.

Clinton put it more bluntly during his speech, saying unions were playing Arkansans.
“If you want to be used that way, have at it,” he said.

Written by suziparker1313

March 2, 2011 at 7:13 pm

Democrats Lincoln, Halter Head to Senate Runoff in Arkansas

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And the winner in the Arkansas Democratic primary for U.S. Senate is…

Stay tuned.

Neither Sen. Blanche Lincoln nor Lt. Gov. Bill Halter got enough votes to win the nomination, so a runoff election will be held June 8.

The winner of that contest will face Rep. John Boozman in November. He emerged from a field of seven other candidates to claim the Republican Senate nomination outright.

Here’s a look at the possible general election scenarios.

blanche lincoln bill halter

Lincoln vs. Boozman –The two Washington insiders tackle each other in an anti-incumbent electoral climate. During the primary, Lincoln, a moderate Blue Dog Democrat, was bruised by Halter, who forced her to swing to the left on certain issues such as health care and banking reform. Boozman, a five-term congressman from northwest Arkansas — the most conservative corner of the state — will have to make serious inroads in the other three congressional districts. Money will pour in for both candidates from their respective parties.

Halter vs. Boozman — Progressive Washington outsider in a Blue Dog Democratic state takes on the conservative, Washington insider. Halter will have the netroots activists’ money and ground support. Boozman naturally lands dollars from the Republican establishment. Tea Party voters weren’t behind Boozman in the Republican primary, and it’s not clear how much strength they will have in November. A little-known independent candidate, Trevor Drown, has qualified for the November ballot. Drown, who touts his military and Christian credentials on his Facebook page, could attract dissatisfied Tea Party voters.

Written by suziparker1313

March 2, 2011 at 7:02 pm

Arkansas Sen. Blanche Lincoln’s Voting Day Snafu

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Blanche Lincoln
Democratic Sen. Blanche Lincoln’s Election Day vote in her primary contest against Lt. Gov. Bill Halter probably won’t be counted right away.
That’s because she had to cast a provisional ballot Tuesday when she arrived, with her husband and twin sons, at the gothic St. James United Methodist Church in Little Rock to vote. CNN’s Dana Bash, a camera crew, and a team of Washington reporters were there to document every minute.
Prior to Election Day, she had requested an absentee ballot, something she said she does every year in order to vote in smaller elections like school board. She said she didn’t submit the absentee ballot, but voting officials had no way of telling, so she had to cast a provisional ballot instead of a regular one.
What happens to Lincoln’s ballot? It goes into a provisional envelope and is “handled in a special way,” according to an official at the Pulaski County Election Commission. In 10 days, election commissioners will open the ballot and cross-reference it with the absentee ballot. Her provisional ballot goes toward the final count if there’s no absentee vote on record.
Lincoln will receive a letter from the Election Commission explaining the outcome.

Written by suziparker1313

March 2, 2011 at 6:55 pm

Blanche Lincoln’s Lack of Lipstick: It Could Bite Her in the South

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I like lipstick.

Maybe it’s my southern upbringing. The South is still very much a region where image is a daily, conscious effort. And lipstick with its bright, playful shades plays a role.
But sometimes, I forget about the lipstick.
Once when I worked at the local paper, my boss, a very southern-belle features editor, was obsessed with image. I worked furiously on a story, trying to meet deadline. Suddenly, she clapped her hands at me. I looked up – her desk was across from mine – and she was staring at me.
“You need lipstick,” she said.
“Lipstick?” I asked.
“Yes,” she said.
Was she serious?
“Do you want lipstick or do you want me to meet deadline?” I asked.
“I really want you to put on some lipstick.”
It was time for me to leave that job.
For women in the political limelight such as Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan or Arkansas Sen. Blanche Lincoln — who faces Arkansas Lt. Gov. Bill Halter and businessman DC Morrison in a primary this Tuesday — image, however unfair, is an issue.
In Little Rock, rumors circulate in chic boutiques that fashionistas have offered Lincoln makeover after makeover, but she has balked. Her reasons for refusal are unclear.
Is it because she doesn’t want to be perceived as the decked-out doctor’s wife? (Her husband is an ob-gyn.) Is it a tactical political move to appear down-home in a mostly rural state? Or is it simply that Lincoln is true to herself and comfortable in her own skin?
Maybe she likes her minimum make-up and hair exactly the way they are. How refreshing. But don’t think her looks and dull pant suits aren’t the catty talk of small-town beauty shops and Junior League meetings. They are.
Lincoln’s freshly scrubbed face is certainly a rarity in southern politics.
A candidate running for a local seat recently confessed to me that the first political advice she received was “do something about my short hair.” She found a new consultant.
But the advice didn’t stop. One veteran female politician told her that a certain number of accessories were required from head to toe. It’s hard enough in politics to keep up with issues and policy, much less belts and bracelets.
Still, she says that she is very aware of her image in ways a male politician never has to consider. They simply put on a suit, or khakis and a polo, and start knocking on doors. She now wears jeans and a campaign T-shirt when canvassing, but always with make-up.
The South, even for its occasional progressiveness, is still a region where appearances matter.
In her best-selling book, “What Southern Women Know (That Every Woman Should),” Ronda Rich writes, “We women of the South have what other women sometimes think is an obsession with our looks. It isn’t necessarily our looks that concern us – it’s our appearance.”
As she wrote so truthfully, “We don’t wear curlers or yard clothes to the grocery store. We do wear lipstick and mascara.”
Dr. David Eigen, author of “Women – The Goddesses of Wisdom,” says that southern
voters, more so in the deep South than a state like Florida, expect “their female politicians to look refined” – a perception that has continued for decades.
“The South, as an image, bases itself on the belief that it’s still a male-dominated society where the female should conform to what men think the woman should like,” Eigen says.
Sure, we’ve come a long way down here in the land of moonlight and magnolias. But the southern-belle mantra of “look your best when you feel your worst” still rings true. It’s hard to secede from a mentality that has been so ingrained into the psyche, regardless of how feminist we southern women think we are.
A recent pro-Lincoln mailer from the Coalition for Arkansas Jobs featured a smiling Lincoln with, gasp, lipstick. My initial – and yes, I admit it shallow thought: Is that shade Toast of New York?

Written by suziparker1313

March 2, 2011 at 6:50 pm

Should Blanche Lincoln Return WellPoint Donations?

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Sen. Blanche Lincoln

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Sen. Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas has always been a champion for women’s health care. Just last month, she introduced legislation that would ensure Medicare coverage of custom-fabricated breast prostheses, which are a lower-cost alternative to reconstructive surgery, which has additional risks and higher costs.

But since 2001, Lincoln has also accepted $12,500 from a PAC for Indiana-based WellPoint, one of the nation’s largest health insurance companies, which is currently under fire by the Obama administration. In his weekly radio address last weekend, President Barack Obama said one insurance company has been “systematically dropping the coverage of women diagnosed with breast cancer.”

That company is WellPoint — the parent company of Anthem Blue Cross, which wanted to raise health care premiums 30 percent for 800,000 Californians. In late April, it backed down from raising prices after state officials showed “numerous and substantial errors” in a filing Anthem said justified the increases.

On Monday, WellPoint chief executive Angela F. Braly sent a letter to Obama, accusing him of citing “false information” regarding rescissions.

An April investigation by Reuters examined WellPoint’s use of a computer algorithm automatically targeting breast cancer patients and every other policyholder recently diagnosed with breast cancer. The software then triggered an immediate fraud investigation on the policy holder. In turn, the woman was dropped from her insurance.

Garry Hoffman, a spokesman for Lincoln’s primary opponent, Bill Halter, said in an interview that Lincoln should return campaign contributions from WellPoint until an investigation of the insurer’s rescission policies and procedures has been completed.

“If true, this is a horrific practice that should immediately cease” Hoffman said. “Singling out women with breast cancer for the purpose of denying them insurance coverage is cold, callous and cruel.”

Lincoln won’t discuss the contributions from WellPoint. Her campaign instead focuses on Lincoln’s vote for the recently enacted health care bill. “Because of Senator Lincoln’s vote to pass the health care reform bill that is now law, health insurance companies will be banned from dropping coverage for sick patients and no patient will be denied coverage based on a pre-existing condition,” spokesman Katie Laning Niebaum said.

Halter and Lincoln are embroiled in a nasty primary battle, with Election Day coming up on May 18.

According to the Reuters investigation, federal investigators concluded that “WellPoint has specifically targeted women with breast cancer for aggressive investigation with the intent to cancel their policies.”

The investigation also highlights how lobbyists for WellPoint and other health insurance companies worked against an early version of the health care bill passed by the House of Representatives that would have created a Federal Office of Health Insurance Oversight to monitor and regulate insurance practices like rescission.

In turn, WellPoint hit back after the Reuters story. On its website, the company listed a litany of errors in the story and called it “inaccurate and grossly misleading.”

“Contrary to how its use was portrayed in the story, such software is used to look at a series of diagnostic codes meant to capture conditions that applicants would likely have known about at the time they applied for coverage,” the statement said. “We do not single out breast cancer or pregnancy.”

Written by suziparker1313

March 2, 2011 at 6:42 pm

Worst Ad Ever? Arkansas Senate Race Hits New Low

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Billl Halter of Arkansas
The already heated Arkansas Democratic Senate primary race between Sen. Blanche Lincoln and Lt. Governor Bill Halter hit a boiling point this weekend, just three days before early voting starts. 

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.”

Written by suziparker1313

March 2, 2011 at 6:21 pm