An Arkansas County cattle rancher told Talk Business & Politics he will seek the Democratic nomination next year and challenge U.S. Rep. Rick Crawford, R-Jonesboro, for Arkansas’ First Congressional District seat. Mike Nelson, 48, has never sought political office. He recently received his paperwork to run for office and will turn it in soon, he said.
“I love our state. The diversity of our Eastern District is unparalleled. From the Louisiana border to the Missouri border, from the Mississippi River to the Ozark Mountains, I challenge anyone to find a more eclectic and wonderfully diverse area in the country,” Nelson said.
Nelson had never put thought into seeking public office and has voted for Crawford twice, he said. When he saw the vitriol between the parties during last year’s election, he decided something had to change. He studied Crawford’s voting record and noticed the four-term congressman was rarely bipartisan with his votes. Crawford is a rubber-stamp for the Republicans even though he claims to be moderate and not a member of the Tea Party, Nelson said.
“If it walks like a duck, votes like a duck, then I’m pretty sure it’s a duck,” Nelson said. “Rick Crawford is part of the right-wing, do-nothing block of the Republican Party. Rick Crawford has to go.”
A self-described conservative Democrat, Nelson said he tends to be conservative on financial issues, and more liberal on social issues. He opposes a bill introduced by Crawford that would lift credit use sanctions in Cuba for agriculture products. Nelson supports free trade with Cuba, but part of the bill troubles him.
There are 6,000 companies and individuals that have claimed the Cuban government took up to $8 billion worth of financial assets from them when Fidel Castro took power in 1959, according to the Miami Herald. This owed money has been a major political stumbling block for those who seek normalized relations with the island nation. Crawford’s bill would place a 2% excise fee on sold agriculture products and the money would be used to repay those debts.
Nelson blasted the idea. He said it’s being promoted as a compromise to gain political support in southern Florida, a stronghold for expatriated Cubans and a reliable Republican voting bloc. He said the fee is tantamount to a “ransom collection.”
Attempts to undo the financial industry regulations put into place during President Barack Obama’s administration would be a mistake, Nelson said. He worked in the financial industry when the economy collapsed in 2008, and if the Republican-led congress has its way again, it will devastate the economy, he said.
He may have a primary challenge next spring. Jim Huff, grandson of former State Rep. and Speaker of the House Jim Shaver, told Talk Business & Politics last week he’s contemplating a run as a Democrat for the seat.
Nelson is a former agriculture commodities trader, has experience in the banking and finance industry, and he owned a hobby card store in Stuttgart, he said. He is a UALR graduate, and is an avid baseball fan, he said. He played the sport in college and has coached and umpired in the years since. He’s an active member in the Methodist Church.
A request for comment from Rep. Crawford has been made. Talk Business & Politics will update this story later tonight.