Notes from the campaign trail: State legislators gather at Rural Development Conference

by Roby Brock ([email protected]) 106 views 

Editor’s note: Notes from the Campaign Trail is a compilation of various political insider tidbits and is sponsored by Little Rock-based Capitol Advisors Group. 


Seven Arkansas lawmakers sat for a political roundtable conversation with TB&P’s Roby Brock on Thursday morning at the AEDC Rural Development Conference in Rogers. The focus of the discussion was on the recent special sessions, an eye on the 2017 legislative session, and other topics including the long-standing power struggle between urban and rural influence.

Participants on the panel included Sens. Jeremy Hutchinson (R-Little Rock), Larry Teague (D-Nashville), Bobby Pierce (D-Sheridan), Jonathan Dismang (R-Searcy), and Reps. Jana Della Rosa (R-Rogers), George McGill (D-Fort Smith), and Bill Gossage (R-Ozark).

After an hour-long discussion of serious public policy topics, all of the panelists fielded some “fun” questions from the moderator.

Rep. Della Rosa graduated top of her college class with a degree in industrial engineering and her husband graduated first in his class with a degree in software engineering. Who fixes anything that breaks at the house? “My husband,” Della Rosa confessed. With two scientist-engineers at home, she also confided that the family’s favorite TV show is “The Big Bang Theory.”

Senate President Dismang was asked to imagine himself as the owner of a NFL football team called the Arkansas Senators. When told that he was up against a mid-season trading deadline and asked to pick one senator he could swap for an Arkansas House member, Dismang was sheepish to make a public pick. He noted that at least one House member, Rep. Lance Eads, was coming to the Senate to replace Sen. Jon Woods, who chose not to run for re-election. “Let’s just leave it at that,” Dismang grinned.

Former Gov. Mike Beebe’s spokesman Matt DeCample revealed that he has liver cancer. DeCample, age 41, disclosed the news in a Tumblr post.

Here I am at 41, and I have cancer. Always the overachiever, this guy. It’s in my liver, which I thought I always had a pretty solid relationship with. Didn’t drink too much, didn’t put anything too horrible in my body for it to filter, generally good times. Then it turns against me. Jerk. I still need it, obviously, but… jerk. The cancer is aggressive and advanced, but also localized and can be fought.

DeCample said he hopes to have normalcy in his life, so feel free to contact him for some good laughs and good conversations.

Democrat Dianne Curry received the endorsement of the AFL-CIO, the state’s largest labor union, in her bid to unseat incumbent U.S. Rep. French Hill, R-Little Rock. Curry received official notice of the unanimous endorsement by acclamation.

“I am deeply honored and humbled to receive the endorsement of the Arkansas AFL-CIO,” Curry said. “The working men and women of Arkansas and the AFL-CIO drive economic and social progress in America. I am proud to have their support.”

AFL-CIO President Alan Hughes said that the endorsement of Dianne Curry, “was based on her ability, qualifications and her position on issues of primary interest to working men and women.” Hughes continued, “It is very important that we give Dianne Curry all of our support and help in any way possible to win this race.”

In addition to Hill and Curry, Libertarian nominee Chris Hayes is also a candidate in the Second District Congressional race.

While Democrat Conner Eldridge gets most of the limited coverage of the U.S. Senate race, Libertarian nominee Frank Gilbert is making an effort to draw attention to his candidacy. Gilbert released a statement this week claiming Boozman voted for a budget bill in Congress that “allocates $261 million more than President Barack Obama requested and lacks significant conservative amendments.”

The bill in reference is the energy and water development appropriations bill, which funds the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Department of Interior. Boozman and Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., voted for the measure, which passed 90-8.

Cotton had tied the bill up for weeks with a proposed amendment that would have barred the U.S. from purchasing “heavy water” from Iran, a component used in nuclear weapons production. The amendment failed before the final vote.

Gilbert’s email release went on to say, “John Boozman and the GOP leadership are every bit as much a part of the spending problem in Washington as our lame-duck president. Boozman lacks the leadership and courage to say ‘no’ to the president and his party leadership. He may have come to Congress as a conservative all those years ago, but he has now sold out taxpayers.”

Speaking of Sen. Cotton, a lot of national media outlets certainly have been. Cotton has been a near-daily presence on the front pages of national political web sites like Politico and others.

The state’s junior senator caused a significant stir with the aforementioned “heavy water” amendment. That led to a row with White House officials, including the president’s press secretary.

In the last week, Cotton has also made headlines on the following subjects (along with some choice pull quotes):

Sen. Tom Cotton really, really, really doesn’t like Harry Reid – “I’m forced to listen to the bitter, vulgar, incoherent ramblings of the minority leader. Normally, like every other American, I ignore them. I can’t ignore them today… When was the last time the minority leader read a bill? It was probably an electricity bill.”

Cotton Applauds U.S. Attorney Investigating the Russian Olympic Doping Scheme – “The Russian economy under Vladimir Putin practically runs on official and semi-official corruption, and it all should be exposed and prosecuted for the world and every Russian citizen to see. Russia is scheduled to host the World Cup in two years, a winning bid that was almost certainly greased with bribes and kickbacks.”

Cotton Says U.S. Has ‘Under-incarceration’ problem – “Law enforcement is able to arrest or identify a likely perpetrator for only 19 percent of property crimes and 47 percent of violent crimes. If anything, we have an under-incarceration problem.”

In the last week, Cotton has also released videos critical of the president on North Korea, Obamacare, U.S. defense capabilities, and he’s penned an op-ed in Fox News commentary section.