The debate over the “private option” health care plan has reached a fever pitch within the Republican Party.
The vote shows a relatively even split among the Republican Caucus of both chambers, but the rhetoric and anger with Republican and conservative activists has never been more heated.
Perhaps the most dramatic example is found in the April newsletter sent out today by the Benton County Republican Party – the reddest of counties in northwest Arkansas. The newsletter contained an explosive article entitled “Scathing” by committee member Chris Nogy, husband of Benton County GOP secretary Leigh Nogy.
The full article and newsletter can be read here. It offers very strong criticism for Republican legislators that voted for the private option. Here is perhaps the most troubling portion.
We need to let those who will come in the future to represent us [know] that we are serious. The 2nd amendment means nothing unless those in power believe you would have no problem simply walking up and shooting them if they got too far out of line and stopped responding as representatives. It seems that we are unable to muster that belief in any of our representatives on a state or federal level, but we have to have something, something costly, something that they will fear that we will use if they step out of line.
If we can’t shoot them, we have to at least be firm in our threat to take immediate action against them politically, socially, and civically if they screw up on something this big. Personally, I think a gun is quicker and more merciful, but hey, we can’t.
But we have to do something, we have to gain control of our representatives, if we don’t then what the hell are we doing as a party except having fundraiser dinners and meetings just to raise more money for future meetings and fundraisers, and giving money to empower and elect those who would betray us without having the control to keep them in line once we do?
I spoke with several Republican lawmakers who voted for the private option who called the remarks “shocking” and “scary.”
“I’m embarrassed for the Benton County Republican Committee for including this article in their newsletter,” said Republican Sen. Jon Woods from Springdale. “I would think the Benton County Committee would have better judgment and not allow this to be sent out.”
Former GOP Rep. Tim Summers is chairman of the Benton County Republican Committee. He said he had not seen the newsletter when reached on Saturday. When read the portion above, he said he was shocked.
“This is certainly not the position of the Committee,” said Summers who said further comment would be coming after he speaks to the executive committee.
“That’s scary,” commented Republican Rep. Micah Neal also from Springdale. “I don’t appreciate it.”
Both Neal and Woods also emphasized that the article ignores the strong conservative legislation passed during the session.
“I think it completely ignores that we just saved small businesses around $35 million in taxes that would have sent the state further into recession. We also passed the strongest pro-life laws in the nation,” said Neal. “I don’t see how as a conservative we could have had a better session.”
“Conservatives should be thrilled and elated at the session we have had,” echoed Woods. “As for the Second Amendment, we had one of the strongest pro-gun rights session in history.”
But the newsletter is certainly troubling and is a sign of some high-pitched unrest among party activists.
UPDATE – The Benton County Republican Committee issued a statement through their chairman Tim Summers.
“The letter was not approved and Mr. Nogy had no authority to submit it through the newsletter. As a committee, we respect the right of our legislators to vote based on their knowledge and feedback from the voters they represent. We will discuss this issue further with our executive committee.”
UPDATE II – The Arkansas Republican Party finally got back with a statement.
“Our view is that the Chairman of the Benton County GOP, Tim Summers, is handling that situation correctly. He is on top of the matter and will be reviewing it with his executive committee. He’s taking the right approach,” said David Ray, communications director for the Arkansas Republican Party.