Low incumbent poll numbers not a surprise, say Democratic contenders for Arkansas’ U.S. House seats

by George Jared ([email protected]) 1,760 views 

A recent Talk Business & Politics-Hendrix poll showed that Arkansas’ four congressmen – Rick Crawford, R-Jonesboro, French Hill, R-Little Rock, Bruce Westerman, R-Hot Springs, and Steve Womack, R-Rogers – have a combined approval rating of 36%.

Talk Business & Politics contacted each congressman to ask about the poll results, and their thoughts on why 58% of Arkansans polled said they would be open to voting for another congressional candidate.

None of the congressmen responded to questions about the poll numbers, and whether they thought President Donald Trump’s recent popularity decline in the state would impact their re-election chances. Representatives from Crawford’s office said they needed more past polling data before answering questions, and Hill’s staff said he had a busy day and might not be able to respond. Westerman and Womack’s camps didn’t respond.

Arkansas’ delegation may have remained mum on Thursday, but several challengers took time to answer questions.

In the 1st District, Democrat Mike Nelson will challenge Crawford, and another Democrat Jim Huff is contemplating a run. In the 2nd District, Democrat Paul Spencer will challenge Hill. In the 3rd District, Democrat Joshua Mahony will challenge Womack. A challenger has not yet emerged for Westerman in the 4th District.

Following are their answers to the questions.

TB&P: Only 36% of those polled say they support their congressman, an unheard of number in recent Arkansas history. Why do you think our congressional delegation is polling so low?

Huff: “I feel the polling number have fallen into unprecedented territory because their constituents are seeing our representatives’ inability to objectively lead. Their constituents feel betrayed and are seeing promises vanish before their eyes as if they were never made. When a congressman votes to take insurance away from 23 million Americans without knowing that important detail beforehand, it begs the question who they are actually representing especially when our state benefits from Medicaid Expansion. They certainly don’t have the best interests of the great people of Arkansas in mind. Arkansans are proud Americans and are growing tired of seeing the reputation of America erode away. We deserve better.”

Mahony: “The poll results mirror what I hear throughout my district. People are tired of Washington politicians who fight for special interests and not Arkansans. Nothing is getting done in Washington to help working families and district voters are demanding real change.”

Nelson: “The general dissatisfaction reflected in your numbers is not, in my opinion, an isolated phenomenon. It’s an extension of the the results we saw from the 2016 presidential campaign. Our citizens are demanding that our elected officials be more open, responsive, compassionate, and accountable to the people that elected them.”

Arkansas’ Congressional districts

Spencer: “The notion that only 36% of Arkansans would re-elect their representatives affirms what our campaign has already been saying: the people are tired of taking a backseat to the special interests and the donor class that dictate our policies. The only way our people will get real change is to change the people we send to Washington. Our representatives have a responsibility to listen to us, to hold town halls, and to answer our questions. These numbers display that our people are standing up and rebuking the old way of doing things.”

TB&P: About 58% of those polled say they’d be open to another candidate in their congressional district. Are you worried you might be pressed or defeated by challenger in your own party or possibly a Democrat or Independent next fall?

Huff: “It’s actually a theme I have heard from the people and I am encouraged by the open mindset that some Arkansans are adopting. I am very excited because I believe I can be the challenger that 58% of those polled are looking for. I pride myself on pillars such as faith, character, integrity, honesty, and courage which I would bring to the House everyday. I would be the candidate that would actually be willing to have town halls to listen and make decisions based on what’s best for the constituents of the First District. This makes the upcoming election cycle one of hope for those who are seeking someone who wants to represent the interests of the people of the First District and Arkansas instead of a particular special interest.”

Mahony: “We’re confident as more voters hear our message about fixing the mess in Washington, creating good-paying jobs and protecting our access to affordable health care we’ll win this election.”

Nelson: “Political affiliation, in my opinion, means very little to individual voters that want to be heard, answered, and valued. That is the brilliance of having a representative democracy. If the person that was hired to do the job is not getting the job done then we can hire a better person to fill the position and party affiliation means very little to the job.”

Spencer: “ A majority of Arkansans are clearly tired of the direction our current representation is leading us, and they are ready for true progress. By only accepting individual donations, our campaign will give voice to Arkansans not special interests. This is not only what a majority of Arkansans want, but this is what they have long demanded from their representatives. They want someone beholden to them, not the high-dollar donors.”

TB&P: President Donald Trump’s polling numbers have plunged in the state. Do you think your re-election chances are tied to the president’s poll numbers, and it what area do you agree/disagree with his policy positions? Please give specific examples. 

Huff: “This has to hurt Congressman Crawford’s reelection efforts because of President Trump’s party popularity and due to the fact Congressman Crawford has supported many of his initiatives in this tough first six months. I think some Arkansans are growing weary of the president’s antics and are not getting what they bargained for. I disagree with the President’s policy on not opening up commodity trading with other countries such as Cuba. This is incredibly important to anyone who is involved in agriculture. Being able to sell our commodities in Cuba could lead to greater trade in other South American countries. Additionally, the President is leaving rural America behind between the cutting of farm programs in his budget and ACA reform. One issue I agree with the President on is ACA; however, I disagree with the path he has chosen to improve healthcare. ACA has not performed as planned and as a result placed hardships on families in the form of higher deductibles and premiums. I think the first attempt to correct this should have been through improvements in the current law. Repeal and replace is truly a tax break for the wealthy in disguise. Our congressmen should be working to strengthen ACA to benefit the hard working Arkansans in the First District.  Additionally, a reduction of Medicaid funding in Arkansas could be catastrophic to rural hospitals and economies. In rural communities, a hospital is a cornerstone for economic development and putting the vitality of our rural hospitals in jeopardy is a disservice to our communities. We have to have congressmen who are willing to stand up for all communities and not fight for promises that end up costing Arkansans more than they should give.”

Mahony: “I strongly disagree with the President’s plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act which has saved lives and provided hundreds of thousands of Arkansans with health care. Sadly, my opponent, Steve Womack, supports the President’s plan to allow insurance companies to deny health care insurance to those with pre-existing conditions. I’ll always fight for the people’s right to affordable health care.”

Nelson: “Trump was elected to do the job of representing the American people. The president of the United States solves problems and provides leadership. The office of the president is serious, intelligent, local, national, global, and universal position of leadership, integrity, strategy, and diplomacy.

Spencer: “President Trump is not on the ballot in 2018, and Arkansans will judge the success of our campaign based on our ideas. The administration’s obscene fiscal policy, misguided immigration stance, harmful religious rhetoric, and devastating healthcare reform are completely at odds with Arkansan’s best interests. And worse, our representatives in Congress are not standing up for our needs and our most vulnerable. President Trump has turned over the reigns of healthcare reform to Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell, and the results will be disastrous for Arkansans, and especially for the people of the Second District. For years, our congressmen told us they would “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act, but when Arkansans needed real action to face skyrocketing premiums, we see that was just an empty promise. We need representation that will fight to guarantee healthcare coverage as right for all, not a privilege for the wealthy.”