Legislative Black Caucus leader Rep. Vivian Flowers, D-Pine Bluff, says healthcare is the No. 1 issue she’s been hearing in a series of town halls the group has been holding this month, and she sees the issue driving candidate enthusiasm among potential women candidates.
The Legislative Black Caucus has held town hall forums in Fort Smith, Pine Bluff and West Memphis. They have several remaining stops on their June-July tour, including stops in Marianna (July 6), Blytheville (July 13), Camden (July 24) and Little Rock (July 27).
Flowers said the effort is to be accountable to constituents and to provide a forum for conversation.
“One thing we’ve realized, and I realized, is that people elect us and they live their lives and they go to work and they trust us to do the right thing,” she said. “But it’s not very often that they get an opportunity to really be engaged and learn about what happens with all of those bills that we propose and get passed. So that’s what we’re trying to do, is just inform them.”
Flowers said that while education is mentioned in every meeting, the top issue on everyone’s mind is healthcare.
“People are really, really concerned about their healthcare. People are very concerned about what’s going to happen,” Flowers said. “They consistently ask about the 60,000 people that might lose their health care. They’re concerned about what may happen on the federal level. And for those who don’t have Medicaid or the Affordable Care Act in Arkansas, Arkansas Works, they’re concerned about how all of this is going to affect them, affect their jobs, affect their insurance, affect their taxes… I would say that’s the number one issue.”
From what she’s seen in the Black Caucus forums, Flowers thinks 2018 will be a hotbed of activity in terms of candidate recruitment for Democrats. Several Democratic candidates have said they will challenge federal officeholders in 2018, but there is a rise in interest at the statehouse level too, she says, particularly among female prospects.
“In Arkansas, it’s more of a tick up for people wanting to get involved and address a myriad of issues. I’ve heard from so many women — young women, experienced and retired women — who are interested in running for office, who are concerned about how public policy is going to play out in the lives of their children and grandchildren. I’m hearing and seeing an uptick nationally and in Arkansas of your everyday Americans who work hard,” she said.
Watch Rep. Flowers full interview below.