There is a reason why Cong. Mike Ross has American flags in his TV ads and on his campaign signs. They’re everywhere in the Fourth Congressional District – flags, that is. Although campaign signs and TV ads are a close second.
Erecting a flagpole in your front yard may be a requirement for residency to live in south Arkansas.
On a trip to Southwest Arkansas on Monday, we noted how interesting it is that a 40-minute stretch of Highway 371 has produced four – count ‘em – four candidates for Congress this fall.
Democrat Mike Ross hails from Prescott where Highway 371 and I-30 intersect. About 20 miles down the road, Second District Democrat Joyce Elliott was raised in Willisville, population 188.
Magnolia, which stands at the end of the 371 run, has bred two candidates this year. Fourth District GOP challenger Beth Anne Rankin still counts it as her hometown. It is also where Second District Republican Tim Griffin was raised.
We love the psychological warfare that takes place with campaign sign strategy. On the borders of Prescott, where Mike Ross still lives, there is a plethora of Rankin yard signs peppering the roadside – conveniently placed for Ross to see them when he returns home from a hectic day of campaigning. Ross returns the favor between Waldo and Magnolia with his own strategic sign placement.
Highway 371 gives way to Highway 82, which stretches across the Fourth District. Somewhere between Magnolia and Lewisville, the county seat of Lafayette County, creeks and lakes become labelled "bayous." The area, at times, has more in common with Louisiana than Arkansas.
Locals complain that Channel 7 is the only Arkansas TV station they can view and that’s been a recent development and requires a satellite dish. You can’t even catch AETN in Lewisville. You have to watch Louisiana public television, which doesn’t offer much in the way of Arkansas politics.
That doesn’t stop the politicos at Cafe 29, the Lewisville hot spot for conversation on the U.S. Senate race, Governor, Congress and a heated state representative battle between Republican Lane Jean and Democrat Raymond Robertson.
Cafe 29 is a re-invented gas station on the outskirts of Lewisville. It draws loggers, lawyers, and little old ladies. For the fellas, Big Smith overalls and a little facial hair are part of the dress code.
Monday’s plate lunch special is hamburger steak with smothered gravy and onions, mashed potatoes, fried okra, broccoli-cheese casserole, a piping hot roll and drink. $6, please and leave your waitress a tip.
Co-owner Johnny McClendon – the dishwasher today thanks to a no-show employee – says he caters to R’s and D’s and "tries to keep as quiet as possible" himself. After all, he’s less concerned with whether Arkansas is painted red or blue as long as Cafe 29 is rolling in the green.
Sen. Lincoln was in the area on this day for a GOTV (get-out-the-vote) rally. Says one Democrat, "There were quite a few people there." A Republican antagonist rebuts, "There were a few people there."
The consensus among the political know-it-alls at Cafe 29 is that John Boozman and Mike Beebe win. Ross will beat Rankin, but by an uncomfortable margin.
Democrats feel good about Robertson’s race. Republicans are confident that Jean will add a House seat to the GOP column. "It’s a weird year" is the most common explanation for the political dynamic in play in the district.
Lafayette County Judge Frank Scroggins, a diehard Democrat, offers his interpretation of voters’ moods with his trademark grin: "I’m glad I don’t have an opponent this year."