Notes from the Campaign Trail: Trump administration picking up Arkansans, Asa hits $2 million mark

by Roby Brock ([email protected]) 1,038 views 

President Donald Trump’s administration is gaining an Arkansas flavor. In recent weeks, several Arkansans have been tapped for roles in the federal government.

Of course, the highest-profile pick is former First Daughter Sarah Huckabee Sanders who is the White House Press Secretary. She can be seen from the podium in the press room near daily when the president is in the country. She recently traveled with him during the 12-day Asian tour.

Two other Arkansans have and will join Huckabee Sanders in the White House press apparatus. Hogan Gidley, who served in the Gov. Mike Huckabee administration, is now on board in the White House press office as deputy press secretary, and soon Attorney General Leslie Rutledge spokesman Judd Deere will start a role with her team as Director of State & Local Communications.

Two legislators are resigning their seats for roles with Trump. Rep. David Branscum, R-Marshall, is the newly named Arkansas Rural Development Director. Trump selected him for to oversee United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) investments, programs and personnel working in the state.

Sen. Eddie Joe Williams, R-Cabot, has been named to a position on the Southern States Energy Board, an interstate compact composed of governors and state legislators from 16 southern states, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands that promotes energy policy across the region.

Also, David Curtis of Salem was named by Trump as Farm Service Agency (FSA) State Executive Director. He will be responsible for communicating the administration’s position on agriculture issues and administering FSA programs across the state.

Look for the Trump White House to pluck a few more Arkansans within the next few months. A couple of folks with state ties are undergoing background checks and interviews for prominent roles.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson sent a tweet out on Wednesday morning, November 15. He said his goal was to raise $2 million for his re-election bid for governor by year’s end. Apparently, he’s eclipsed that goal.

“We have reached an important milestone in our campaign that we wanted to share. We had a goal of raising $2 million by year end and thanks to you, we have now raised over $2 million.” – Asa for AR twitter account.

Jan Morgan is still exploring a primary challenge to Gov. Hutchinson next year, and apparently there is chatter of a potential Democratic rival. In a recent interview with Arkansas Democrat-Gazette columnist John Brummett, he said he had visited with a Democrat exploring a run.

While there was much coverage of the Arkansas Poll last week and its toplines, there were plenty of other tidbits to extract from the annual survey. While elected official popularity was the primary focus, it is helpful to look at some of the trendiness of the last several years. Here are some nuggets of interest:

  • The economy has always been a strong leader for the most important issue facing people in Arkansas. In 2015, 43% rated it the most important problem. In 2016, it fell to 27% and in 2017 it stood at 28%.
  • The issue of abortion has remained largely unchanged over the last 19 years of the poll. In 1999, 45% of Arkansans said laws should be more difficult to get an abortion, while 14% said it should be easier and 32% said no change should occur in the laws. In 2017, 45% said it should be more difficult, 13% said it should be easier, and 25% said no change. Most of the “no change” shift moved to “refused to answer”.
  • Gun control attitudes also remained incredibly stable during the period. In 2000, 39% said stricter gun laws were needed, while 15% said less strict and 42% said no change. In 2017, 38% said stricter gun laws were needed, 15% said less strict and 41% said no change.
  • Political affiliation is an interesting category where shifts in attitudes has been noticeable. In 1999, 23% identified as Republican, 35% Democrat, and 31% Independent. With the exception of 2004, from 2012 forward, Republicans have largely made gains. They’ve hovered around 27-29% of the voting population with an aberration of 24% in 2013.
  • Democrats have seen voters identify with them in the 30-32% range from 2011-2015. However, in 2016, only 25% identified as Democrat and in 2017, just 24% claimed Democrat as their party affiliation.
  • In 2000, 35% of Arkansans said they were independent voters. In 2017, 35% said they were independent voters. The highest number ever claimed by independents is 42% in 2010.

UA professor Dr. Janine Parry will be a guest on this week’s Talk Business & Politics to explore further.

We’ve updated more candidate announcements to The List, our compilation of folks running for office in 2018. Many Democrats are stepping out with announcements in this latest round.

Add these newcomers to your radar:

  • State Senate District 14 – Susie Reece, Democrat
  • House District 11 – Ricky Lattimore, Jr., Republican
  • House District 39 – Monica Ball, Democrat
  • House District 41 – Jonathan Crossley, Democrat
  • House District 73 – Rashad Woods, Democrat (exploring a run)
  • House District 84 – Adrienne Kvello, Democrat
  • House District 86 – Nicole Clowney, Democrat
  • House District 95 – Celeste Williams, Democrat

Of interest, several of these new candidates are educators. You can view the full updated list at this link.

Jason Tolbert and Trey Baldwin, who spearhead management of “The List”, are still seeking potential candidates to share their announcements with Talk Business & Politics. You can follow Tolbert via Twitter at @TolbertOBU and you can follow Baldwin at @BaldwinAR. You can also email your announcements to [email protected]

Editor’s note: ‘Notes from the Campaign Trail’ is a compilation of various political insider tidbits. It is sponsored by Campbell Ward Consulting|Communications.

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