As the deadline for filing for 2018 elections draws closer, Democratic candidates are announcing at a steady clip against Republican incumbents at the state and federal level. Two Congressional candidates – Hayden Shamel in the Fourth District and Paul Spencer in the Second District – appeared on this week’s edition of Talk Business & Politics.
Shamel, who announced a week ago in her hometown of Hot Springs, said she’s challenging GOP U.S. Rep. Bruce Westerman, R-Hot Springs, to tackle issues of high drug prices, education, and jobs.
“I believe that Arkansas voters are looking for real solutions to real problems that they have, and that’s the reason that I entered this race at this time. I think it’s time for us to have someone who can present solutions to the problems that people are facing,” Shamel said.
Spencer, who announced this summer that he’d challenge Republican U.S. Rep. French Hill, R-Little Rock, said health insurance and tax reform are two issues he’s been hearing about from voters on the campaign trail.
“We’ve been going out to the rural counties quite a bit,” he said. “And we’re hearing the same thing over and over again. They don’t feel that they’re being adequately represented with regards to the tax policy that’s underway now or the insurance policies that have been pushed up by the House and the Senate,” said Spencer.
Both Democrats said the election results in Virginia and across the country last week – where Democrats had significant success – have invigorated their campaigns.
“I think the most important thing that the Democratic Party is focused on right now is making certain that people get ahead from wherever they are. And I think that the results from Tuesday night show overwhelmingly that America is ready for change and we just haven’t seen that change that they expected under this current administration,” said Shamel.
Spencer also noted that the election results were a signal to the establishment wings of both major political parties.
“I think that when you look at the categories that those folks came from, it’s a breath of fresh air,” he said. “And the establishment seems to be pushing back, they’re being pushed back a little bit by these types of elections, and I think that’s going to bode well for the Democrats in the future.”
Shamel and Spencer also fielded questions on a variety of topics that are being debated in Congress. Below are some excerpts from their answers.
Shamel: “I’m a proud gun owner and I will always protect our right to bear arms, but I wanna say this too. Over the course of the past several years, one after another, we have seen such tragedy. From children to churches, we continuously see that guns are entering into places where we never would’ve expected them before. So, what I do want to point out is that it is possible to have a union of not only protecting the right to bear arms but also putting forth common sense gun measures that can help protect people, that can help prevent accidents and help deter crime. And I believe one of those measures is by implementing universal background checks, and I think that that’s something that the American public overwhelmingly supports.”
Spencer: “Gun ownership is a very important thing in a rural state like Arkansas… I was a little disappointed after the Las Vegas shooting because then you have people willing to talk about the bump stock issue and so forth, Congress was looking for a legislative fix, the NRA came out and said, ‘Let’s run this through the executive branch,’ and almost opened the door a little bit to allow that to happen, but it was slammed very quickly without anything really happening from that. I think a lot of folks are ready for these types of accessories to be regulated a lot more intelligently.”
Spencer: “I’ve always believed that the tax policies that we’ve had favored the corporations and the super-wealthy in this country. When you give tax breaks to billionaires and the donor class and so forth, what they typically do, instead of going out and buying a new washer and dryer that stimulates the economy, they reinvest it in Congress and get more tax legislation that affects them positively. So, I don’t see this new tax proposal, either of them out of the House or the Senate, as being anything that’s going to help everybody.”
Shamel: “We are rewarding corporations on the backs of working-class families and we have to be focused on putting Arkansas families first and families first all over the country, for that matter… When we put forth a tax plan, what we need to be doing is focusing on real people, people like you and people like me, people who can truly benefit and not the corporations. We need to be focused on people, not profits.”
Shamel: “I think that we need to take the existing system and improve it. So, what that means is, number one for me, driving down the cost of those prescription medications. I come back to that because, again, that’s what I hear over and over again from our voters. They need to be able to afford their medication and that’s where I’d like to focus on… Healthcare is a fundamental human right and countless other countries have gotten this right, and it’s time for the United States to do the same.”
Spencer: “The current system needs to be fixed for right now, but ultimately I’d like to see us move towards a ‘Medicare for All’ system. I think that’s the way of the future. As we always say, we’re the only industrialized world that doesn’t believe that people should have universal healthcare coverage in a single payer system.”
You can watch their full interview in the video below.