Editor’s note: This story has been corrected to note that Republican Party Chairman Doyle Webb did not say Gov. Asa Hutchinson would defeat challenger Jan Morgan in the GOP primary. Talk Business & Politics sincerely apologizes for the error.
Arkansas Republican Party Chairman Doyle Webb believes a GOP primary will be good for the party, and the party will unite behind the eventual nominee.
Webb spoke, along with Democratic Party Chairman Michael John Gray, at the Northeast Arkansas Political Animals Club meeting Friday (Jan. 26) in Jonesboro. Morgan, a gun-range owner from Hot Springs, is well-known across the state for her vigilant defense of the second amendment. She has said Gov. Hutchinson is too moderate for Arkansas.
A primary will be good for the party, and it will help to bring out the base, Webb said.
“I don’t think she’ll do any damage,” he said.
A heated Republican primary with Morgan is not good for the state, Gray said. Morgan promotes the “worst elements” in the Republican base, he said.
“Divisive politics is bad for Arkansas,” he said.
When asked how they would advise candidates on how to talk about President Donald Trump, the chairmen gave very different answers. Gray said the state party will not run an active campaign of pinning Trump to Republican candidates. The party’s focus will be issues such as roads, healthcare, schools and others, he said. But, in some races the controversial rhetoric used by the president could be an issue, he said.
“His decorum has been horrible,” Gray said.
Republicans won’t run from the president despite his low poll numbers, Webb said. Arkansas overwhelmingly voted for Trump during the 2016 election and he’s still popular in the state.
“I don’t like his tweets, but I like what he’s doing,” Webb said. “We won’t run from President Trump. We’re proud of President Trump.”
On the topic of illegal immigration and immigration policy, the two men were largely in agreement. Children who were brought to this country illegally through no fault of their own should be allowed to stay. Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA is a program that allows these children to stay in the country and has been under much debate in Washington D.C. Webb said a compromise, such as DACA children being allowed to stay while allocating money to build a southern border wall with Mexico, could be the right strategy.
Gray said a clear way to citizenship needs to be considered, too. Immigrants from Great Britain can attain citizenship in six months, while it can take six or seven years for immigrants from Mexico or other countries in Central and South America.
Changing the state’s political DNA will be a tough task for Democrats, Gray said. In the last 10 years, it has swung from a state dominated by Democrats to one almost completely controlled by Republicans. One thing Democrats are really bad at is explaining how certain positions and policy points will impact the lives of daily people, he said. Democrats in the state have to reconnect with the average person, he said. Voters need to see into the heart and character of a candidate, not just the party he or she represents.
“We’ve quit looking at the candidate. … We only look at the letter by the name,” he said.
Webb spent many years in public service while the Democrats dominated the state. He doesn’t think his party will soon relinquish power. He said as long as the national Democrat Party remains liberal, it will hurt conservative Democrats, or Blue Dogs as they used to call them, that populated the state.
“Blue Dogs are dead. There are no Blue Dogs anymore,” he said.