The state legislative races, where we’ve expected the bulk of the roughest political campaigning to be in Arkansas this year, is fulfilling its promise to be bruising as seen by the rough-and-tumble messaging and responses across the political landscape.
In the latest turn, Arkansas Republicans are tying into Gov. Mike Beebe (D) on tax-cutting and jobs, and away from Pres. Obama on health care and values.
We reported earlier on the Americans for Prosperity mailers that smacked certain Democrats for their votes on a referred proposal to raise the diesel tax for highway construction and repairs.
That brought a swift response from those candidates defending their tax cutting records. It also began an offensive from Democrats to saddle GOP legislative candidates with the accusation that their opposition to popular Gov. Mike Beebe’s agenda could doom Arkansas to fates seen in other states where government services have been drastically cut.
Republicans have responded to that onslaught with a new direct mail campaign to targeted voters saying that they are “working with the Governor when it’s the right thing to do,” while “opposing Democrats’ liberal agenda when it’s the right thing to do.”
The “independent voice” mailers — as one GOP strategist called them — began hitting this weekend in incumbent GOP districts statewide.
On one side, they highlight cutting the grocery tax and used car tax, improving education and promoting jobs in the natural gas industry. The flip side features a prominent picture of Pres. Obama and notes votes against Obamacare, attacks on religious freedom and traditional values.
Without naming Beebe in a negative context, the mailers do feature the Governor fist-bumping Obama from a visit during the 2006 election cycle.
Also, Americans for Prosperity is back with new messaging for the airwaves.
The conservative group says it is airing a :30 second ad statewide across Arkansas, but it doesn’t target any candidate or political party. It does, however, emphasize a change in political direction.
The copy in the ad reads:
“For those that came before us, Arkansas was the land of opportunity. But government debt, higher taxes, and the everyday cost of living are slowly eroding opportunities for all Arkansans. That’s why economic freedom is imperative to Arkansas. We can make this a better place to live – full of opportunity and prosperity.”
You can view the ad below.
UPDATE: Tonight, Gov. Mike Beebe (D) told a group of around 400 business leaders from Arkansas that the AFP ad “irritated” him.
After seeing it on TV before coming to the Arkansas Governor’s Quality Award event at the Peabody Hotel in Little Rock, Beebe took to the stage and discussed the ad at length.
“When they trash Arkansas, they’re trashing you,” Beebe strongly emphasized. He spent several minutes talking about the accomplishments of his administration and how the ad did not reflect those achievements.
Afterwards, Beebe tempered his emotions and in a post-banquet interview said, “It trashes the state. It talks about how bad we’re doing as a state when that’s just not true. We’re doing so well educationally. We’re doing well with creating jobs, even though we’ve lost thousands, we’ve created thousands — it doesn’t bother to say anything about that. It doesn’t bother to mention the fact that we’ve cut more taxes than anybody in history, but we’ve done it in a responsible manner.”
When asked again if the ad was inaccurate, Beebe said, “Yeah, I think it’s very misleading. Yeah, absolutely.”
Teresa Oelke, executive director of Americans For Prosperity’s Arkansas chapter said the ad does not “trash” the state.
“We’ve been consistently presenting these facts. This ad is about where we want to go as a state, not where we’re at,” Oelke said.