The Arkansas Green Party nominated candidates for all four U.S. House races in Little Rock today, including two candidates who have run multiple races.
Meanwhile, Fred Smith, the former Harlem Globetrotter whose attempt to run as a Democrat was voided by a judge’s ruling in April, will run for House District 50 as a Green.
The following candidates are running for the U.S. House:
First District – Jacob Holloway, a 24-year-old ASU student
Second District – Barbara Ward of Little Rock, who works at the Historic Arkansas Museum
Third District – Rebekah Kennedy, an attorney from Fort Smith. Kennedy ran unsuccessfully for attorney general in 2006; for U.S. Senate in 2008; and for attorney general in 2010
Fourth District – Josh Drake, an attorney from Hot Springs. This is Drake’s third consecutive attempt to be elected to this seat.
Independent Arkansas caught up with Kennedy, Drake and Ward at the convention and was able to get video interviews with Kennedy and Drake. The three were realistic about their chances. Drake even said, “I joke that if I had a chance of getting elected, my wife wouldn’t let me run.” But Kennedy in particular promised a vigorous campaign.
The three believe in Green Party values – stopping climate change, nationalized health care, a reduction of corporate influence in Washington. Drake was more passionate about health care while Kennedy focused on energy and the environment.
Asked why they aren’t running as liberal Democrats, they all said they believed in the Green Party. Kennedy and Drake asserted that there’s not much of a difference between Democrats and Republicans, anyway.
Kennedy said it would be more effective to compete with Democrats from the left than to simply lose to “prepicked” candidates in the primary. She said both parties are so poll-driven that they won’t do much to change the status quo – in particular concerning her primary issue, climate change.
“Instead of having an intelligent conversation among the people of this democracy about where we want to go in the future, we just have people rehashing the same things over and over, and unfortunately, it’s not true that you can leave well enough alone and never change everything and everything will stay the same,” she said.
Drake said, “You’d rather run with a party that stands for ideals that you can believe in, that you can be proud of, rather than always apologizing for the lesser of two evils that the Democratic Party has become.”
Smith’s earlier Democratic candidacy was thrown off the ballot after a circuit judge ruled that he had not provided proof that his felony conviction for theft had been dismissed or expunged by the filing deadline. It’s a long story, so if you want more, here it is.
All told, the Greens nominated 14 candidates in Arkansas and endorsed Dr. Jill Stein for president. Roseanne Barr – yes, that Roseanne Barr, was a candidate.
I publish a magazine for the state’s two engineer associations, the Arkansas Society of Professional Engineers and the American Council of Engineering Companies of Arkansas.
These are good folks, they work hard, they are mathematically inclined, and sometimes they are a little nerdy. I wish they would run for Congress.
You won’t see a road-building project stalled because engineers refuse to budge on some side issue. You won’t see a project fail because one faction of engineers wanted to embarrass the other.
Engineers build bridges and roads; our current congressmen can’t even agree how to fund them. In fact, Congress is two years late passing its latest highway bill.
It’s time to replace these rigid ideologues and political game-players with practical problem-solvers who know how to get the job done. That’s why I’m endorsing Arkansas’ engineers for Congress.
When only a small percentage of voters goes to the polls and those that do vote tend to be the most partisan parts of the electorate, guess what happens? Partisan elected officials get elected.
Here’s what turnout has looked like in the past few Arkansas elections:
2010 midterms – 48 percent
2010 primaries – 29 percent
2008 presidential – 65 percent
2008 presidential primary – 35 percent
2008 general primary – 18 percent
That means lots of people are voting in the general election for candidates that were chosen by the most partisan voters on the left and the right in the primaries. The result is a partisan Congress – and the mess we saw on the debt ceiling deal.
Voters can’t complain about their choices if they sit out the primaries. A more diverse Congress would be less partisan. And for that to happen, more people must vote in primaries and midterm elections.
The debt ceiling debacle received most of the attention this past few months, but Congress and the president have failed to do their jobs in two other critical areas: highways and education.
Washington is two years late reauthorizing the surface transportation law and four years late reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which created No Child Left Behind.
With highways, Congress and the president have just been tacking another year on the previous law each year. That’s bad because it makes it impossible to plan for the future.
No Child Left Behind has been a problem because the law holds schools to rising standards of accountability until 2014, when every student in every school in America will be expected to be proficient in math and science. Few schools will meet that impossible 100 percent standard then. More than 400 schools in Arkansas don’t meet it now, with students and taxpayers paying the consequences of the law’s excesses.
On Monday, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced that states can apply for waivers from some of the law’s sanctions, as long as those states are enacting reforms the department considers worthy. It’s better than nothing, I guess, but a complete rewrite would be better.
Above is Dr. Tom Kimbrell, Arkansas education commissioner, discussing how the state has responded to the ESEA not being reauthorized.
More in my Arkansas News Bureau column this week.
Rep. Tim Griffin is supposed to be embarking on a “Jumpstarting Jobs” tour, but at Philander Smith College Thursday evening, the talk was about the budget deficit.
Two days after President Obama signed the debt ceiling extension, Arkansas’ Republican Second District congressman defended his own vote for the deal. He said that while he wasn’t happy with it and wouldn’t have voted for it had Republicans controlled the White House and Senate, he “wasn’t willing to roll the dice” on the economy had it not passed.
Describing the deal, he said, “It’s like canceling your cable bill when you can’t afford the mortgage.”
Griffin broke with some in his party by saying that he believed the government should increase revenues by reducing the amount of tax deductions. Some Republican leaders have said that rates should be lowered in that case so that there is no net increase.
But he reiterated his opposition to increasing taxes. He said that tax revenues did not decrease as a percentage of the gross domestic product because of the Bush tax cuts. He repeated a favorite GOP line that Washington doesn’t have a revenue problem, it has a spending problem, punctuating it with a Powerpoint slide showing that while revenues have remained consistent since the 1940s, spending is rising dramatically as a percentage of GDP. Even if revenues were to increase somewhat, he said, there’s no way they can keep up with that rate of growth.
Ultimately, he said, the spending explosion will be addressed – if not by the government, then by its creditors.
Griffin said economic growth was the key to reducing the deficit. He called for a flatter tax, regulatory reform, patent reform, free trade, and pro-growth energy policy.
The debt ceiling deal includes automatic spending cuts if a committee of Republicans and Democrats – dubbed the “Super-Congress” by some – and the Congress as a whole cannot agree on reductions. Griffin said he expects Congress to make those cuts without the automatic trigger.
It was a lively discussion. Griffin opened the evening by asking who in the audience was the angriest and then handed the microphone to a man named Patrick, who read a lengthy statement in support of health care reform and against the Bush tax cuts. Despite it being his fifth event of the day, Griffin energetically engaged his audience. He didn’t shy away from any questions and even gave out his cell phone number.
He also didn’t sugarcoat the realities of the country’s budget deficit problem. Saying Medicare needs substantial reforms, for example, he said, “If you love Medicare, then you’d better reform it because it’s going away.”
The audience of about 60 was fully engaged and highly informed on the debt ceiling debate. And it seemed aware of the nation’s fiscal problems. “Everybody’s going to have to take a big bite of this doo-doo sandwich,” said a constituent named “Edmond” who described himself as an independent.
What Congress should have done is agreed that ending the debt is nonnegotiable. The it should have compromised on the details.
What it did was decide that the details were nonnegotiable. But it compromised on the principle that we should stop passing on the debt to our children.
That’s a subject I tackle in this week’s column for the Arkansas News Bureau.
Two weeks ago, I wrote a column for the Arkansas News Bureau offering four “crazy” political reforms: replace the Electoral College with the popular vote; creating a four-year election cycle for the House, Senate and president; creating optional public financing of congressional campaigns; and reforming the redistricting process. I asked readers to present their own crazy ideas.
The response was pretty good, actually. Among readers’ suggestions: awarding electoral votes by congressional district; only one six-year term for all federal officials (my wife, by the way); and more transparency for political “bundlers” who combine contributions into one large gift.
I thought some of the readers’ ideas were good, while some were completely unworkable. But that wasn’t the point. The point was, first, to recognize that the entire system obviously needs an overhaul and that our problems go beyond which party is in power. And second, to brainstorm ways to reform the system.
All kinds of crazy ideas were contemplated by our Founding Fathers when they wrote the Constitution. Democracy itself, in fact, was a crazy idea. It’s become a cliche, but they were thinking outside the box on a historical scale.
It’s time to think outside the box again.
Here are the readers’ responses.
Here is the original column.
Arkansas’ four congressmen today voted against H.R. 1954, the bill that would raise the country’s debt ceiling past its current $14.3 trillion limit. The bill failed with not a single Republican voting for it.
This does not mean the debt ceiling won’t be raised. There is still plenty of time before the country runs up against the time limit and begins to fail to make good on its obligations. The press releases I have received – from Reps. Ross, Griffin and Womack – indicate that the congressmen voted against the bill because it included no structural spending reforms.
I’m fine with that. For a long time, deficits in Washington have been all-too-business as usual. Ultimately, Congress will have to vote to raise the ceiling – and it will, despite all the saber-rattling. Let’s hope the congressmen get what they want and that the bill includes spending reforms.
Here are the statements released by the three congressmen, in the order that I received them. I have not yet heard from Rep. Rick Crawford from the First District.
ROSS – “I voted against raising the nation’s debt ceiling today because we’ve got to send a strong message that it’s past time to stop the out-of-control spending in Washington. Before I can support any increase in the debt ceiling, it must include meaningful spending cuts that will actually reduce our deficits without punishing America’s working families and seniors.
“The debt ceiling isn’t about new spending; it’s about meeting the debts and obligations we’ve already committed. It has been increased 36 times over the last 30 years, with President Reagan signing 17 debt limit increases into law and President Obama signing three so far. The debt ceiling problem isn’t new, but it’s reached a level that is unsustainable. Congress needs to stop the partisan bickering and start working together to draft a commonsense compromise that preserves America’s standing in the global economy, cuts spending and reduces our deficit.
“Instead of playing games with the debt limit, we should instead focus on how to get our nation’s fiscal house back in order. That’s why I have worked hard as co-chair of the fiscally conservative Democratic Blue Dog Coalition to pass components of our Blueprint for Fiscal Reform, cosponsoring 15 deficit or debt reducing bills, many of which have become law. This Congress, I’ve also voted to cut $38 billion from the 2011 budget and am working hard to build support for the Blue Dog Benchmarks for Fiscal Reform, which aims to cut the deficit by $4 trillion over the next decade. Reducing our deficit is and will continue to be my focus in Congress as a fiscal conservative and as a Representative from Arkansas.”
GRIFFIN – “Tonight, I voted ‘No’ to raising the national debt limit and will remain opposed to raising it without serious structural spending reform. Neither the President nor Senator Reid has a plan to deal with the federal government’s out-of-control spending, but the House does. They should adopt the House’s reforms to save Medicare, reduce spending and encourage private-sector job creation. I understand the gravity of what is at stake and addressing the root cause of the debt—out-of-control spending—is the only way forward.”
WOMACK – “I have said all along that the fiscal situation facing our nation is among our highest priorities in Congress. It is unconscionable to consider an increase in the debt ceiling without significant and guaranteed limits on federal spending.
“We cannot continue to add to the burden of future generations by ignoring our obligation to control spending.”
My Arkansas News Bureau column this week is about the Medicare reform plan passed by Republicans in the House of Representatives April 15. It was supported by all three freshman Republicans from Arkansas.
The plan replaces Medicare as we know it with a voucher system that would give each senior $15,000 to purchase private health insurance starting in 2022.
My take is that while I appreciate Republicans for at least addressing the problem, it’s the wrong plan as a policy and politically. It’s the wrong as a policy because, just like President Obama’s health care plan, it relies on the private insurance industry, which I believe is as much to blame for our current problems as the government because private insurance only pretends to be a free market solution but doesn’t really behave like one. Because of it, consumers don’t make their purchasing decisions at the point of sale, which is what makes the free market work.
I didn’t say how to fix it in the column, which I should have, but the truth is, I don’t know. Americans are going to have to pay for more of their own health care. Insurance should insure against catastrophic loss, not pay to “treat” every sniffle, with a safety net staying in place for the poor.
The other problem with the Ryan plan is that it is wrong politically. It will never pass, which makes it a distraction, and it has made Republicans vulnerable in the upcoming elections.
My Arkansas News Bureau column is about one issue in which Arkansas’ two senators, Democrat Mark Pryor and Republican John Boozman, disagree: a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution. Boozman is for it; Pryor against it.
The column presents arguments for and against the idea, and there are plenty of good ones on both sides. Best argument for it: We can’t seem to balance the budget without it. Best argument against it: Judges would take over the budget process. Plus it’s a copout.