With filing beginning this week, Arkansas Right to Life PAC made a rare move to make an endorsement of two pro-life Senators - Jason Rapert (R-Conway) and Bill Pritchard (R-Elkins). Executive Director Rose Mimms explained that the early endorsements were based on requests from the candidates and the policy of Arkansas Right to Life to endorse pro-life incumbents.
The two endorsements are both interesting, but in completely separate ways.
Sen. Rapert seems to be an obvious choice, but the early endorsement could indicate a special interest of pro-life leaders in his race which likely will be a general election match-up with Rep. Linda Tyler (D-Conway). No other candidates have announced for the Senate District 35 seat.
Mimms said that even though Tyler has given them some support over the years, she was never someone they could count on to support pro-life legislation. She chaired the House Public Health Committee, which killed around 11 pro-life bills in the last session. Mimms said that it was apparent to her Tyler as well as several other members of the committee were intent on stopping their pro-life legislation.
“I don’t see how with a straight face, Rep. Tyler can tell anyone she is pro-life,” said Mimms.
By contrast, Sen. Rapert was supportive of all the pro-life legislation in the previous session and even carried three of their bills as the lead sponsor.
“God’s greatest gift is the gift of life,” said Rapert. “I am honored to have the endorsement of the Arkansas Right to Life PAC. The sanctity of life and the importance of family are principles that guide me every day. Life begins at the moment of conception and, as leaders, we have a moral and spiritual obligation to protect the life of children.”
The endorsement of Sen. Bill Pritchard has raised some questions since Pritchard faces a primary race with Rep. Jon Woods (R-Springdale), who is also pro-life.
Mimms explained that although Woods has a solid pro-life record it is the policy of Arkansas Right to Life to always support the pro-life incumbent even if they have a pro-life opponent.
“We are aware Jon Woods is also planning on running and wanted our endorsement and we love to be in the situation where there are two pro-life candidates, but our loyalty is to the pro-life incumbent,” said Mimms. “If he wins the primary, we may consider making an endorsement in the general election based on his solid pro-life record.”
Woods, interestingly enough, served as vice chair of the House Public Health Committee, but Mimms said this did not play a role in their decision to endorse Sen. Pritchard and feels that Woods was supportive of their bills in committee.
Woods was not pleased with the decision of Arkansas Right to Life and said that he was “speechless.”
“I wasn’t surprised that Right to Life endorsed my opponent. What surprised me was that it wasn’t a dual endorsement,” said Woods. “We are both proudly pro-life. Unfortunately though, Right To Life put themselves in the same category of all PAC’s. I’ve always thought that an organization that promotes to society that we should be more sensitive about life at conception would also practice being more sensitive about its endorsements of pro-life candidates over other pro-life candidates.”
Woods said that if he is elected he plans to work with Rep. Andy Mayberry in his proposed legislation that would ban abortion after the point at which unborn babies can experience pain and would gladly carry the water in the Senate.
Mimms said she does not expect Arkansas Right to Life PAC will be making any more endorsements in the near-term, but will be sending out their 2012 candidate questionnaire after filing is over and hopes candidates will return these so that voters can see their position of pro-life issues.