Democrats celebrate during an ‘Evening with the Senators’

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 35 views 

An estimated 400 gathered in downtown Fort Smith on Tuesday (Aug. 17) night for “An Evening with the Senators” fundraiser for the Sebastian County Democratic Party.

U.S. Sens. Blanche Lincoln and Mark Pryor attended and spoke. Also attending were Gov. Mike Beebe, Attorney General Dustin McDaniel, Arkansas Treasurer Martha Shoffner, David Whitaker, the Democratic candidate for the 3rd Congressional District. and L.J. Bryant, the Democratic nominee for Arkansas Land Commissioner.

The event ended an almost full day of campaigning in western Arkansas by Beebe, Lincoln and Whitaker that included a stop in Van Buren for the grand opening of the new Crawford County Democratic headquarters. The new office is near downtown Van Buren at 927 E. Main St.

Beebe used the Van Buren stop to push his consistent campaign message of remaining focused on the “twin pillars” of education and economic development, which he also said has been the top priority of this first term. He reminded the friendly crowd that after several decades of trying, it was during his administration that the sales tax on groceries was reduced. The tax has dropped from 6% to 2%, with Beebe promising to cut the remaining 2% as soon as economic conditions allow.

Beebe faces GOP challenger Jim Keet in the gubernatorial race. Early polls show Beebe with a 10-15 point lead over Keet. Lincoln is up against U.S. Rep. John Boozman, R-Rogers, in her re-election bid. The early polls show Boozman with a double-digit lead over Lincoln. Whitaker faces Rogers Mayor Steve Womack in the 3rd District race. Most political analysts don’t expect Whitaker to win in a Congressional district that has sent a Republican to Congress in every election since 1967.

Overall, the swing through western Arkansas and the “Evening with the Senators” were part of push to charge up the Democratic base and get out the votes in November in an area historically considered more Republican than Democratic.

Lee Webb, chairman of the Sebastian County Democratic Party and member of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, was pleased with the Tuesday night audience.

“This is exciting. I didn’t expect this. It’s a much better turnout than last year,” Webb said.

He said the fundraiser also helps local Democratic officials and volunteers become more familiar with the statewide and federal candidates.