Ross Talks Gay Marriage, Gun Laws And Jobs

by Ryan Saylor ([email protected]) 112 views 

Count former U.S. Rep. Mike Ross, D-Prescott, as one Democrat who disagrees with Arkansas Economic Development Commission director Grant Tennille’s support of gay marriage.

At a July 8 press conference, Tennille said having marriage rights for gays and lesbians could help economic development.

“I think it’s the right move for Arkansas in a lot of ways. It’s the right move for Arkansas’ economy, in my opinion,” Tennille said.

Ross said in an interview today (July 10) in Fort Smith that there is no basis for Tennille’s assertion that such a move would be good for the Arkansas economy.

“His reasoning for jumping into the middle of a controversial issue is, you know, he indicated that he thought that would help create jobs in Arkansas, but it’s not based on any studies, (as) I understand it,” said the Democratic gubernatorial candidate.

Creating jobs, he said, relied more on actual incentives the state can provide companies to move operations here from other areas. The incentives provide the companies with the desire to move operations to the state, not the state’s stand on social issues, Ross said.

“I’ve got an economic development plan on how we can do a better job of creating jobs in this state, but it certainly is not based on allowing same-sex marriage,” Ross said.

The economic development plan Ross referred to includes the creation of a governor’s cabinet, which would include the lieutenant governor, agency heads and the heads of non-profits focused on economic development, as previously outlined in a June press conference in Little Rock.

As part of his economic development plan, Ross said he would announce a program after Labor Day that would encourage investment in economically distressed areas of the state, including the Fort Smith area.

“For example, Fort Smith, with the loss of Whirlpool, would fit that category just like some of the small towns in Arkansas would fit that category,” he said. “I announced for governor in the industrial park in my hometown, and it was a stark contrast.”

He said off his left shoulder near Prescott, Ark., was a Firestone plant, which he had worked with Beebe to save when the company announced the facility could be on the chopping block. Instead of closing, the company added hundreds of new jobs, Ross said. But over his right shoulder sat a nearly empty industrial park, something he said is seen far too often across the state.

To combat this, Ross plans to focus not only on economic development and his governor’s cabinet, but also on improving education across the state, which is said is tied directly to economic development.

The beginning of a good education must start with early childhood, he said, adding that he would like to see an increased focus on math and science education, which could bring more skilled jobs to the state. Ross also touted vocation education as important to Arkansas.

“The new term they use is career tech – you know, some kids don’t want to go to college. And yet they can still make a good wage and support their family if they learn a skill and get certified in things like welding, plumbing and diesel mechanic. We need to make sure that every kid that wants to go to college can find a way, but we also don’t need to lose sight of the fact that some kids don’t want to go to college, they want to learn a skill and get a job where they can support their family.”

Ross, a lifelong member of the NRA, said he agreed with Attorney General Dustin McDaniel’s recent opinion on Act 746, which McDaniel said does not allow for open carry.

“I don’t believe the majority of the people in the state want us to go back to the old wild west where people’s just walking into restaurants and shopping or going to work with a gun and holster on their belt,” Ross said.

Should an open carry bill be passed in the next legislative session, Ross said he would veto the bill if elected governor, adding that concealed carry already does a lot to prevent crime.

Another hot button issue across Arkansas right now is the recently-passed “private option,” which would expand Medicaid, using federal money through the federal healthcare law passed in 2010 to fund the program for the first several years.

Ross said conservatives who have fought the private option plan should understand that the program is not the drain on resources that some have accused it of being.

“For each accusation like that, there’s one on the opposing side that says that the private option saves the state money. The federal government pays 100% of it for several years and then eventually the state will be responsible for 10% of it, where traditional Medicaid, we were responsible for about a fourth of the cost.”

While there was a lot of talk on policy, a slew of endorsements came in today, as 62 of 75 sheriffs across the state endorsed Ross’ run for governor today. The Arkansas Sheriffs’ Association was in Fort Smith for the group’s annual meeting.

“There’s a reason why (62) of the 75 county sheriffs in Arkansas are backing Mike Ross for governor – because we know and trust Mike. And, we know he will provide the common sense, bipartisan and fair leadership Arkansas needs,” said Sheriff Scott Bradley of Van Buren County who spoke on behalf of the group. “We are proud to endorse Mike Ross for Governor, because we know he will always put good policy over partisan politics and that he will continue to support county sheriffs and law enforcement across this state just as he always has.”

Locally, Crawford County Sheriff Ron Brown, Franklin County Sheriff Anthony Lee Boen, Logan County Sheriff Steve Smith, Madison County Sheriff Phillip Morgan, Scott County Sheriff Amie Carpenter, Sebastian County Sheriff Bill Hollenbeck and Washington County Sheriff Tim Helder endorsed Ross’ candidacy.

It’s just one of the big announcements to come in the next week, according to the former congressman.

“We’ll have another major announcement on Monday that will demonstrate the strength and the grassroots support that this campaign has,” Ross teased.

Ross would not give a further indication of what may be included in the report or what kind of a fundraising haul he had brought in since announcing his campaign.