story by Ryan Saylor
A direct mail piece that went out over the weekend has left people on both sides of the District 9 Senate race scratching their heads and Democrats from Fayetteville to Little Rock denying involvement.
The mailer, with a large logo that says "Democrats for Bruce Holland," claims Republican Sen. Bruce Holland of Greenwood is the Democratic choice since no Democrat will be on the November ballot to challenge the winner of the Republican primary in District 9. The district covers portions of Crawford, Franklin, Logan, Scott and Sebastian counties.
"There is no Democratic Primary in this State Senate race," the mailer reads. "Bruce Holland is a reasonable (Republican) who has worked with Mike Beebe. His opponent is a radical right-wing extremist who will work to obstruct any (Democratic) policy initiative."
Reached for comment Monday (May 19), Communications Director Lizzy Price of the Democratic Party of Arkansas denied any involvement.
"This mailer did not come from the Democratic Party of Arkansas or any of our affiliates. The DPA doesn't participate in Democratic primaries, let alone Republican primaries."
Holland was taken aback when reached for comment, explaining that he had not yet heard about the mailer and had no idea where it could have come from.
"I have no idea who that would be from. I don't think any of the Democrats would do anything for a Republican," he said. "I'm at a loss on this. I don't know who it behind it or what their motives are, whether it's (opponent Rep. Terry) Rice's campaign trying to discourage Republicans from voting for me or what."
For his part, Rice's campaign consultant Clint Reed of Impact Management Group denied any involvement and instead said postmarks from Northwest Arkansas could indicate involvement from another outside group.
"It definitely didn't come from us. We've been trying to track down where it came from," he said. "The ones we've been able to get our hands on have stamps on them and were mailed from Northwest Arkansas. I suspect — and they don't have disclaimers on them — I suspect that it probably comes from a college camp trying to organize Democratic crossover (votes)."
Executive Vice President Austin Ross of Young Democrats of Arkansas said no one from his organization or affiliates on college campuses were involved, and said any involvement would likely skirt the law.
"We are in a way allowed to spend (some) money, but that would probably be illegal for us to make a donation to a candidate," Ross said. "But it definitely wasn't us. This is the first I've heard about it."
Holland said the direct mail piece was "a mysterious deal" and he did not know how to take it.
"I don't know how I would respond to that," he said. "I hadn't ever given it much thought (receiving support from Democrats). You want a vote from anyone who will give you a vote, but I'm a solid conservative candidate. I don't know what to think of all this."
Responding directly to the claims made in the mailer about his work for Democratic policy initiatives and working with Gov. Beebe, Holland said he was unsure what would give anyone the impression that he supported Democratic causes.
"I like to think that I'm a reasonable person, but I don't think there are any Democratic initiatives that I've supported. What's that group? Advance Arkansas. …They've ranked me very conservatively on my scorecard, where my opponent has five Democrats ranked more conservative than he is. You would think they would support the guy with a voting record closer to them. It's puzzling to me."
Rice defended his voting record in response and said he had taken his message to voters of all political persuasions.
"I've worked hard to carry my conservative message to anyone that will listen to it — Republicans, Independents, and conservative Democrats that may be voting in the Republican primary. I've fought hard to stop the implementation of Obamacare, protect our gun rights and cut taxes — if anyone agrees with me on those conservative principals, I'd hope they would consider my candidacy."
But still not answered — where did the mailer originate?