opinion by Maylon Rice
Editor’s note: Maylon Rice is a former newspaper reporter, columnist and editor at several newspapers over the past 40 years. He ran, unsuccessfully for the Arkansas House of Representatives in 2012. A native of Warren, Rice lives in Fayetteville.
Opinions, commentary and other essays posted in this space are wholly the view of the author(s). They may not represent the opinion of the owners of The City Wire.
While the group known as Conservative Arkansas proudly on April 7 posted their endorsements in mostly GOP races for the upcoming May 20 Preferential Primary, there are still troubling questions that only Republicans can answer.
Most, if not all, of the former Legislators given the “nod” by Conservative Arkansas voted FOR the Arkansas Private Option. There were a few exceptions to be noted later on in this examination of the endorsements.
But just days following Conservative Arkansas’ posting that its members should support Republican front-runner Asa Hutchinson for Governor in a two-man race against Central Arkansas’ Curtis Coleman, the potential for a missed message surfaced. In the TV ad touted on the candidate’s website as “Arkansas Common Sense” Asa made his boldest statements on a television ad yet – and two little tag words – may prove “troublesome: even for Conservative Arkansas.
One of the first, if not the only TV ad this political season (and it is still early folks), where Asa’s squeaky voice, sappy smile and his Ozarkian drawling pronouncement if Washington – which always comes out as WARSH-ing-ton – he promised, perhaps his biggest promised by his own voice in this race.
“On Obamacare? (He lets the issue hand out there just a nano-second longer than his normal delivery). “I’ve always opposed it – Always will.” His voice finished in the strongest crescendo possible.
The press for the past months as the Arkansas Legislature wrestled with passing the Arkansas Private Option, first in the regular session and most recently in the Fiscal Session, Asa was asked again, and again and again, for his comment on the issue.
He gave no comment. Not one. Nor even a hint of his feelings ever came forward for public dissection. He said in “political speak,” he would not comment on something the Legislature was working on. That was there job, Hutchinson said.
But that’s not so surprising. As Asa's non answer was not as definitive as his follow up on Obamacare. And not as absolute today as how it will sit with him in the future if elected Arkansas’ governor.
“Always will.” That leaves little wiggle room. Don’t you think?
That pronouncement has to be pretty chilling words for those GOP members who helped form and pass, by a two-thirds majority in both the state House and the state Senate, the Arkansas Private Option – which is a hybrid of Obamacare.
Never doubt it, Asa seems to say. “Always will.” That is pretty definitive.
Is Asa going to derail the plan scuttled together by state Rep. John Burris (and others)? Burris of Harrison is now a candidate for a state Senate seat. Is Asa going to be against state Rep. Sue Scott of Rogers, who has put her legislative future on the line by voting twice for the Private Option?
Conservative Arkansas has strong ties to state Sen. Jon Woods of Springdale, (among others) and other strong advocates for the Private Options. Sen. Woods, himself, twice voted for its passage. This group, Conservative Arkansas, gave Asa the “nod” over Curtis Coleman, an avowed opponent to the Private Option. Coleman has railed against the plan, but he never has used the verbiage that Asa does in this ad – yet.
Other Northwest Arkansas and River Valley oddities in the Conservative Arkansas endorsements are perplexing. Or are they?
State Sen. Bruce Holland of Greenwood, who is in a fierce re-election contests against term limited state Rep. Terry Rice (no relation to this writer) of Waldron. Sen. Holland in the fiscal session voted for the Private Option. Rep. Rice in his last hurrah in the lower House tried to derail the Private Option in many ways.
Another oddity is the open seat endorsement in District 87. GOP candidate Lucas Roebuck, who is making his second run for this seat, after losing in double digits, more than a decade ago. Why does Roebuck deserve the nod against a well-known Republican Robin Lundstrum from Elm Springs?
Perhaps Roebuck is for the Private Option. Lundstrum has been vocal about her non-support of the Private Option. Roebuck touts himself as the more conservative of the two, but will he break ranks from his former state Rep. Jonathan Barnett, who voted “No?” And will Roebuck go against the sitting state Senator Jim Hendren of Sulphur Springs, who has been a vocal opponent of the Private Option?
It is kind of hard to vote against a powerful senator in your own House district?
Conservative Arkansas was pretty direct in its support for newcomer Lance Eads in House District 88 over state Rep. Randy Alexander. Both men are from Springdale. Rep. Alexander voted “No” on the Private Option in the fiscal session, angering state Sen. Woods.
Also, is Conservative Arkansas punishing state Rep. Jim Dotson of Bentonville in House District 94, by endorsing his opponent Bill Burchart? Rep. Dotson was a solid “No” against the Private Option.
So we are still perplexed by Conservative Arkansas’ own explanation of its endorsements. If they are “conservative” why are they supporting candidates who are pro Arkansas Private Option, which is a form of Obamacare?
And does Asa’s promise: “On Obamacare – I’ve always opposed it. Always will, “really mean what the candidate says.
Aw, heck, it is just some endorsements. But they may bear watching as the May 20 primary approaches. Conservative Arkansas may be conservative in name only.