Rep. George McGill, D-Fort Smith, has released a list of more than 41 community and business leaders who have endorsed his candidacy in the Fort Smith mayoral race. Early voting began Aug. 7, with the official primary election set for Aug. 14.
McGill is facing in the non-partisan race former Southside High School principal Wayne Haver and 23-year-old UAFS student Luis Andrade.
The endorsement includes names like Sam T. Sicard, president and CEO of Fort National Bank of Fort Smith, Steve Clark, president of Propak and founder of The Unexpected Project, developer Richard Griffin, and former ArcBest Chairman, President and CEO Robert A. Young III.
Haver was unsurprised by the list, telling Talk Business & Politics McGill had entered the race much earlier than him. Haver submitted his petition to be added to the ballot about 90 minutes before the May 31 noon deadline while McGill announced his intent to run in September 2017.
“I don’t think (the endorsements) will adversely affect my election,” Haver said. “I expected that. Mr. McGill got in the election very early. Most of those (names) committed to him early on. I’ll just count on my supporters to overcome any effect they have on the election.”
Andrade said the list consisted of “great people who have been in Fort Smith for decades, and people who believe in what George has to offer, and that’s perfectly fine.” However, he also believes they’ll “have absolutely no effect on the outcome of this election.”
“These endorsements also reaffirm what I have been saying from the very beginning of the race: George is the ‘status quo’ candidate. It’s interesting that they did not mention Mayor Sandy Sanders’ endorsement. I wonder why.”
Andrade continued: “I believe it’s time we break away from the same old political game that has resulted in nothing but empty buildings, national headlines claiming Fort Smith to be one of the most miserable places in the U.S. and a handful of very wealthy folks.”
Andrade said he’s received endorsements from Corey Lewandowski, former campaign manager of President Donald Trump, as well as Vice-President Mike Pence’s former Campaign Chairman Mike Neal, and Bentonville Mayor Bob McCaslin, “who has accomplished fantastic growth in his town at 38%.” Those endorsements, Andrade said, are “among many others.”
“Fort Smith has a clear choice ahead. We can continue down the same path, or we can bring in a fresh perspective as we move forward and establish, once again, a free market,” he added.
No matter what happens on Aug. 14, Andrade wants to “respect whatever the people of Fort Smith choose to do,” and once the election is over, “we all need to come together as the one great community that we are and work on one shared goal, which is making this town a better place.”
For McGill, Fort Smith already is a great place and the influential endorsements are the result of a proven track record.
“About every endorsement you see is from people who know me. They know my work ethic, my family background, and they can put their hands on the things I’ve done for this city over the many years,” McGill told Talk Business & Politics, pointing to efforts such as his decades of involvement with the Boys and Girls Club, contributions to riverfront development, as well as contributions to make the Bass Reeves statue a reality. McGill’s great-grandfather “found his way here after the Civil War and put his stake down, and my family has been here ever since. I’ve lived here, gotten my education here. I have a passion for my city and enjoy serving.”
McGill believes the list of endorsements is important but reaching out to younger generations during the campaign trail has helped as well.
“I’m really just introducing myself to them, and they’ve latched on to who I am, and my record of service.”
As a known Democrat in a non-partisan race, McGill said he’s had to fight back the criticism he’s “too liberal” for Fort Smith.
“What does that word even mean? Terms change over time, and for someone to just call me something that isn’t concrete — they need to say what they mean and be clear about it. If you’re going to say someone who worked his butt off all his life, started a business and made it profitable and grow, paid his own way through college and served in the military, and earned respect all across the nation is liberal, then okay.”
McGill also found it unusual he would have supporters from two opponents criticizing him on social media and other places when he’s served three terms in the Arkansas House of Representatives without opposition in any of his other campaigns.
“No other party or affiliation put a candidate to run against me because they understood I was there for Fort Smith. I didn’t have a social agenda. I was there to serve the people.”