The Democratic challenger in the First Congressional District race is asking Rep. Rick Crawford, R-Jonesboro, to participate in a debate involving veterans issues.
Campaign officials for Heber Springs mayor Jackie McPherson, who will face Crawford and Libertarian candidate Scott Wilhite of Cabot on Nov. 4, hand delivered the letter to Crawford’s Jonesboro House office Monday afternoon.
The request reads in part:
“First and foremost, I want to thank you for your service in the Army. We have some fundamental disagreements about veteran’s issues, but I will always respect your years of service to our country,” McPherson wrote. “I believe that the veterans of the First District deserve to understand their choices in this election. That’s why I’m inviting you to a public discussion centered specifically on veterans issues in Jonesboro the week of September 21st. The veterans of this district deserve an explanation of what prompted you to vote against the recent Veterans Affairs overhaul bill, and I feel that you deserve a public forum to explain and defend your vote.”
In the letter, McPherson asks for a response by Sunday.
McPherson has criticized Crawford for a 420-5 House vote on July 30 to overhaul the Veterans Affairs Administration, saying the issue needed to be addressed.
Crawford voted no on the bill, joining four other lawmakers in the vote.
However, Crawford said Thursday that he supports veterans and is seeking a long term solution to the issue.
“Accusing me of being against veterans is like saying farmers are against rain. Rain is good as long as we don’t get 12 inches overnight,” Crawford said. “It is plain silly to say that I oppose veterans when I served in the Afghanistan Theater, chair the Congressional EOD armed services caucus and have a father and brothers who are veterans. I simply felt there was a better way to fix the VA than throwing billions of dollars at a failing agency without requiring more accountability. I feel we can improve VA care faster and better if we require more accountability, not less. My fellow veterans deserve better.”
Late Monday (Sept. 8), Crawford offered a response to McPherson’s letter.
“As the son and brother of veterans and a veteran myself, I am disappointed in the dishonorable manner in which my opponent has inaccurately characterized my strong support for veterans,” he said. “As I’ve said numerous times, I am fighting for the best possible care for my fellow veterans because they deserve it. Among other things, I felt throwing money at the problem without requiring more accountability from a federal agency with a corrupt culture was, in my opinion, not sound management.”