What good is a new blog without a list ranking elected officials?
Therefore, I have the distinct pleasure of presenting the State Legislators who made the list of “Top 5 Debate Drivers” for the Democrats. These legislators drove much of the public debate in the last legislative session and will continue to be key players in next year’s budget session.
My Top 5 are listed alphabetically:
Rep. Robert Moore (D-Arkansas City) – Having the Speaker of the House as one of the Top 5 may seem like a “gimmie”, but that hasn’t always been the case in the past 15 years or so. Moore pushed through some big legislation last session and still impressed people with his unpretentious and easy-going style. It’ll be interesting to see what his political future holds after his terms ends in 2013.
Sen. Larry Teague (D-Nashville) – As incoming Senate President Pro Tem and current chair of the Revenue and Taxation Committee Teague wields considerable influence. In the last legislative session, he was heavily involved in the negotiations that lead to a $35 million tax cut package. Arkansas’s $94 million budget surplus and how it gets used is on next year’s budget session agenda and Teague has a seat at that table. Moreover, next year’s legislative session on budget and finance means major issues must go through Teague’s committee thus allowing him to drive the debate on financial matters.
Sen. Robert Thompson (D-Paragould) – Thompson is the Democratic Majority Leader in the State Senate and is credited with helping run a smooth session that avoided much of the divisiveness that bogged the State House side at times. Thompson worked behind the scenes on various issues such as redistricting and various budget matters and also co-sponsored ethics legislation. Look for the young and impressive Thompson to be a candidate for higher office in the near future.
Rep. Kathy Webb (D-Little Rock) – As Co-Chair of the Joint Budget Committee, Webb leads one of the Legislature’s most powerful and important committees. Ironically, on paper she wasn’t supposed to be a power-player: a female State Rep from one of Arkansas’s most liberal districts and just happens to be the only openly gay member of General Assembly. But through her political skills, knowledge of state budgeting and business acumen she continues to drive the debate on financial matters in the General Assembly. Look for Webb to wield considerable influence in next year’s budget session.
Rep. Darrin Williams (D-Little Rock) – In his second-term, Darrin Williams was a major driving force behind Governor Beebe’s prison reform bill over in the House side of the Legislature. Williams is a respected leader in the African-American community and a potential contender for Speaker for the next legislative session. Williams name gets mentioned by some as a potential candidate for Attorney General in 2014. Whichever office he runs for the future, he’ll be a force to be reckoned with – and that’s a good thing.
Honorable Mention: Sen. David Johnson (D-Little Rock), Sen. Jim Luker (D-Wynne), Rep. Johnnie Roebuck (D-Arkadelphia), and Rep. Linda Tyler (D-Conway).