Republican gubernatorial candidate Asa Hutchinson took to Facebook and Twitter to answer questions directly for voters on Thursday evening.

The #AskAsaAR was certainly not the first time a candidate has interacted via social media in Arkansas, but it was one of the busiest such events generating more than 200 tweets from both sides of the aisle within an hour time period.  Asa answered over 30 questions from friends and foes during the hour long question-and-answer session.

Here are some highlights….

The first question was from Rick Border who asked, “How come Coleman wants to eliminate state income tax and you and Hobbs only want to reduce it?”

Asa – “I want to reduce the income tax as much as possible w/o raising other taxes or harming our funding to education or vital svcs.”

Brian Bailey asked via Facebook, “What’s your interpretation of Act 746? Does it support open carry? Do you support open carry?”

Asa – “The courts will ultimately have to decide this, but seems to me that Act 746 supports open carry if not for a criminal purpose.”

The infamous Drew Pitt asked, “should you be elected Governor of Arkansas, how will you approach the whole issue of marriage equality?”

Asa – “I agree with the majority of Arkansans and our state constitution that marriage is between one man and one woman.”

Candace Martin, communications director for the Democratic Party of Arkansas asked, “Do you support exceptions for rape, incest and life of the mother when it comes to abortion?”

Asa – “I am pro life. Not sure where Ross is. I would have signed pro life legislation; he says he would have vetoed it.” and he added, “but I do support the exceptions for rape, incest and life of the mother.”

Arkansas Teachers asked, “Will you take on the school emp health care prem issue? It’s a recruit, retention, quality of life issue?”

Asa – “This is really hurting our teachers pocketbook and morale.  I will work for a solution as gov. but it needs to be fixed now.”

It was certainly one of the more active social media “townhalls” we have seen in Arkansas, and I would not be surprised if it becomes more common for candidates to interact in a similar format.

“For the 2014 cycle, if candidates aren’t interacting via social media, then they’re irrelevant. At this point, social media is not a new thing, it’s the thing,” said Audrey Savins with Harris Media who helped organize the event.

“Twitter houses a hyper-engaged audience and it’s important that candidates reach this sect because it has become the home of the 24-hour news cycle,” she added.  “Facebook is important because of the wealth of data it holds which allows an extreme degree of targeting so it is great for gathering supporters around specific issues and for GOTV efforts later down the line. Being effective on social media allows you to get your message heard by the right people at the right time.”

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Jason Tolbert is the moderator for his opinion blog, The Tolbert Report. He can be reached by e-mail at Jason@TolbertReport.com. Follow him on Twitter: @TolbertReport.

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