Democratic Congressional upstarts see voter energy around tariffs, healthcare

by Roby Brock ( 331 views 

Arkansas Democrats have a lot of energy and investment in the 2018 Congressional races and two of those candidates – Chintan Desai and Josh Mahony – shared their front line interaction with voters. In separate interviews this week, Desai and Mahony described what’s on voters’ minds the most as they travel their respective legislative districts.

Desai, a Helena resident whose background includes Teach for America, just wrapped up an exhaustive tour of the First Congressional District currently represented by Republican U.S. Rep. Rick Crawford, R-Jonesboro. Desai’s “30 in 30” tour included a month-long trip to 30 towns and cities in the expansive district at a time when tensions are running high for those in agriculture, the district’s most pervasive industry.

“The farmers that we’re talking to, the row crop farmers, are incredibly disappointed with our congressman and with our administration in terms of what they’re doing. They’re essentially collateral damage of this trade war, the practices by this president,” Desai said. “He’s going after China, but the way he’s doing it is not in the way that we need to. We need to be working with our allies, working with other countries to take on China. Right now, that’s not what they’re doing. They’re picking a fight, an unnecessary fight.”

Desai said he didn’t meet any farmer supportive of the tariff battle and he said that patience is wearing thin for many.

“There are farmers, if you farm 2,500 acres, just this year alone, you’re losing about $100,000 in profit. We’ve got the Arkansas Farm Bureau President worried about farmers being able to make a profit this year. There’s definitely a feeling that people are taking a loss here. Some are willing to be more patient than others, but pretty soon here, people are going to start getting pretty angry,” he said.

Mahony is taking on incumbent GOP U.S. Rep. Steve Womack, R-Rogers. Womack, first elected in 2010, is the chairman of the House Budget Committee.

Mahony, part owner of a natural resources company and a nonprofit activist, said jobs, healthcare and sustainable energy are some of the biggest drivers of discussion among the district’s voters. He also said that despite the prosperity prevalent in Benton and Washington counties, other areas of the district are not experiencing rapid growth or opportunities.

“We’re in a very interesting district because we’ve got a Fortune 1 company in our backyard that does incredibly well, but we’ve got a lot of people that are struggling to make ends meet, too. Not everybody has the luxury of living in Bentonville,” Mahony said.

“We need to make sure that we’re still fighting for good paying jobs and we’ve got to look more long-term than one quarter,” he said.

Mahony said that during his travels he’s seeing a lot of new, fresh faces engaging in politics. He suggests it will lead to higher voter turnout than a typical mid-term election and that Democrats will benefit.

“I think we are going to see a lot of people come out. You know, the policies of the administration have certainly galvanized a lot of folks. What I have seen is a lot of people that actually didn’t even care to really be involved in politics before the presidential election [who] become involved,” Mahony said.

“Some of our parties in our different counties have been revitalized by people that have decided to become involved in politics for the first time. And so it’s been incredible to go county to county to county in the Third District and see these parties restarted locally and see groups between 50 and 100 people showing up to somewhere where there might have been five or 10, to the point that the party lapsed locally,” he said.

You can catch extensive interviews with Chintan Desai and Josh Mahony in the videos below.