Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Unions, Progressives The Big Losers In Arkansas Senate Race

The unions and progressive put their money where there mouth was on Bill Halter in the Arkansas Democratic Senate runoff race and ate it because President Obama's No. One arm-twister and fix-it man Bill Clinton still got it by backing incumbent Blanche Lincoln.

So, a jubilant and surprised Lincoln survives a scare from a formidable opponent who really did run a good race as a longshot only to face a longer shot herself in the November general election against Republican Rep. John Boozman.

The Tuesday runoff may have been botched in Garland County, one of several where Halter won large in the May 18 regular Primary. County election officials staffed only two of 18 precincts opened in the primary. Voters sweltered in the heat, some standing in the sun for several hours before entering to cast ballots. Halter's campaign planned to decide Wednesday to file a protest.

"It became about whether or not the people of Arkansas, who are great people, were going to continue to be hammered by special interest groups that simply wanted to manipulate them and their vote." Lincoln told the Associated Press.

The Service Employees International Union and the AFL-CIO in addition to the progressive MoveOn.Org plowed millions into Halter's campaign.

In the final days of the campaign, Lincoln's campaign increasingly relied on an ad from former President Clinton and the former governor who remains popular in his home state. He warned about special interests.
"This is about using you and manipulating your votes," Clinton said in the ad.

The more progressive side of the Democratic Party targeted Lincoln for not supporting a public option in the health reform legislation and for her opposition to the Employee Free Choice Act favored by unions although Arkansas is not a strong union-based state.

Between Clinton and Lincoln's favor with farmers who reap the rewards of her being chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, the two-term incumbent ultimately survived.

"I think she pulled it out because I think people realize, one, what she meant to Arkansas and that she had been a fighter for Arkansas and she was willing to tell them, 'I'm willing to lose this race rather than turn my back on Arkansas,'" Lincoln strategist Jim Duffy said.

Despite what all the political pundits said about Lincoln being cold-shouldered by President Obama, universal disgust with incumbents from either political party, etc., the best analysis came from a woman voter in Little Rock.

"She's head of the Agriculture Committee, which is one of the most important committees we have in Washington," Lori Ritchie said. "It's all about power and what committee you're on. It will take Halter eight to 11 years to get to the position Blanche is at now."

Way to go Lori. That putting those darn pundits in their place.

Arkansas is considered a swing states by those same pundits who I find rather naive. In tough economic times, it is a Republican camp and Boozman, a congressman since 2001, is no stranger to state voters. He was unopposed for reelection in 2008, and serves on the Transportation and Infrastructure, Veterans Affairs and Foreign Affairs Committees in the House.

The question is, how many voters across the state are willing to keep a fragile incumbent the likes of Blanche Lincoln in a position of seniority as Lori Ritchie argues.

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