Notes from the Campaign Trail: New groups emerge on casinos, voter ID

by Roby Brock ([email protected]) 520 views 

According to the Arkansas Ethics Commission web site, there have been a couple of late entrants in the ballot question committee category.

On Oct. 22 and 23, a ballot question committee known as “Vote No on Issue 4” filed paperwork to organize. Issue 4 is the casino amendment. Cynthia Stone, an attorney with Dover Dixon Horne, is listed as the President and Secretary/Treasurer. In a statement on its filing form, the group says it will “advocate for the defeat of Issue 4.”

To date, they haven’t filed a campaign expenditure report or placed any visible advertising – certainly not to the magnitude that the pro-Issue 4 groups have placed.

By the way, if you’re seeing a lot of ads supporting the casino proposal, word on the street is that for the last two weeks of the campaign supporters bought a commercial spot in every commercial break of every newscast in every market in Arkansas. All in all, about a $1.9 million buy. That’s on top of additional advertising that was already on the books and in other programming. In turn, that move locked up a lot of available inventory with TV stations and, effectively, nearly quadrupled the rate for a 30-second ad from roughly $300 per point to $1,200 per point. The net effect, an ad costs four times as much to purchase meaning even big budgets can’t get as much bang for their buck as they’d hoped for.

Another ballot question committee filed on Oct. 24 is “Let the Story Begin,” which says it will oppose Issue 2, the voter ID amendment.

Quincy Watson of Little Rock is listed as a committee member and chair of the group. On its 7-day pre-election filing report, the group did not report any contributions or expenses.

The Second District race between incumbent GOP Congressman French Hill, Democratic challenger Clarke Tucker, and Libertarian Joe Swafford may be bucking a national trend.

The Cook Report, a closely-watched nonpartisan analyst group that rates Congressional races, moved the Second District contest from “Lean Republican” to “Likely Republican” – a move that would suggest momentum has moved in Hill’s direction. The Cook Report announced on Wednesday that it predicts 30-40 seats may move from Republican to Democrat, which would give Democrats control of the U.S. House. Previous estimates from Cook suggested that 25-35 seats might flip.

With a week to go, the Arkansas candidates are making their closing arguments. Hill is running ads tying Tucker to “Hollywood elites.” Tucker is criticizing Hill for negative campaigning and drawing attention to his central campaign argument: protection of pre-existing conditions in health insurance reform.

Democratic Congressional candidate Clarke Tucker rolled out his campaign’s business leadership council, which featured more than two dozen central Arkansas business executives. The council includes Tucker’s father, Rett, who has been active in his campaign.

“Business is a lot like life,” said Rett Tucker, co-chair of the council. “If you’re fair to everybody — your customers, your employees, your associates — and you work hard, you’re going to have success. And that’s what Clarke is all about.”

The full list of Tucker’s Business Leadership Council includes:

Rep. Charles Blake, CenArk Transportation
Ben Brainard, Yellow Rocket Concepts
Brent Bumpers, Moonlight Mixes
Mike Coulson, Coulson Oil Company
Steve Davis, Riverside Bank
James Dietz, RPM Group
Mark Eldridge, Eldridge Supply Company
Lisa Ferrell, North Bluffs Development Company
John Gaudin, Argenta Welath Management
John Hurst, Simmons Bank
Wade Keeter, GW Lighting
Rusty Mathis, Ben E. Keith Company
Presley Melton, Ellis Melton Company
Alan New, Taggart Associates
Marla Johnson Norris, Aristotle
Dan Oberste, BSR Trust
Capi Peck, Trio’s Restaurant
Charlie Penix, Cromwell Architects Engineers
Don Richardson, IPM Products Manufacturing
Steve Ronnel, Metal recycling Corp.
Ronnie Settlers, Sim’s Bar-B-Que
Susi Smith, Simmons Bank (retired)
Charles Stewart, Regions Bank (retired)
Sherman Tate, Tate & Associates
Rett Tucker, Newmark Moses Tucker Partners
Linda Tyler, Acxiom (retired)

In the Bentonville mayor’s race, five candidates are vying to succeed Mayor Bob McCaslin. One of the frontrunners, Stephanie Orman, complained on Wednesday (Oct. 31) about a PAC’s efforts to help her opponent Jim Webb, another leading contender for the post.

You may have heard of or seen the PAC, the Washington, D.C.-based Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC), which is running negative ads about Supreme Court Justice Courtney Goodson and positive ads for her opponent, David Sterling.

Orman issued a press release on Wednesday (Oct. 31) to disclose that RSLC has spent $41,587 on Webb’s campaign, “producing many fliers, billboards and Facebook ads to support the candidate,” according to Orman, who labeled the spending as “untraceable” “dark money.”

“The RSLC is pumping major funding into Bentonville in order to gain control of our local community,” Orman said. “This outsider group with east coast money lacks local credibility and provides no transparency into who is funding this particular investment and what their agenda is. This and other out-of-state organizations must be stopped and I am calling on local government officials, residents, and community leaders to join me in denouncing the agenda-lead involvement of these organizations.”

She further noted that organizations like RSLC are not required to clearly disclose donors for local campaign support, “unlike is done for corporate and personal donations over $50.” The RSLC’s web site says its mission is “to elect Republicans to multiple down-ballot, state-level offices.”

Webb countered on his Facebook page:

“While I do not know the Republican State Leadership Committee, I am happy to be supported by a group who advocates for Republican leaders at the state and local level. I do not know and have not communicated with this organization or individuals working for the organization,” Webb said, claiming he was unaware of the activity until he received one of their mailers.

“Unfortunately, my opponent does not understand this organization discloses the individuals who support Republican state and local leaders, as revealed by a simple Google search. Therefore, it would not be what First Amendment opponents like Ms. Orman have termed ‘dark money’.”

According to, the RSLC was funded in 2016 (the most current information available) by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the NRA, Walmart, Koch Industries, and Altria Group to name a few.

The other three candidates in the Bentonville mayor’s race are Terry Shannon, John Skaggs, and Charlie Turner.

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