I live in Arkansas House of Representatives District 35, an area that covers my own Cammack Village as well as The Heights, Riverdale, and some other neighborhoods of Little Rock. In this election, the candidates are Clarke Tucker for the Democrats and Stacy Hurst for the Republicans.
As I indicated Monday, I planned to vote for Clarke Tucker--and later that day, I actually made good on my threat by early voting. As the three or four of you who read this blog* know, Stacy Hurst had virtually no chance of getting my vote, so this was more of an academic exercise from the beginning. You can think of these comments as sort of a coda.
* - Hey, I said "read," not "enjoy."
Consistent with this district's left-leaning reputation, Hurst has run a campaign that emphasizes how moderate she is--sort of. She has certainly cultivated a reputation as an independent politician, which I suppose is kind of refreshing, coming from a Republican. I quickly reviewed her campaign materials, and they tend to be long on platitudes and short on detail. In fact, her campaign website is utterly devoid of any substantive discussion of what she's planning to do.
I probably would have left well enough alone if I hadn't gotten this letter in the mail on Tuesday.
(Click on the images for a larger view.)
Now, let's be clear: Stacy Hurst has no shot at winning the election unless she gets votes from some Democrats. There just aren't enough Republicans in the district for her to win if she runs the kind of hard-right campaign that has characterized the mainstream GOP over the last 10 years or so. So it's unsurprising that she would put this kind of letter out.
To summarize: The author, Chris McNeal, claims to be a Democrat and speaks highly of Clarke Tucker. But McNeal says he voted instead for Stacy Hurst. Why?
- In his opinion, she's a fantastic candidate who as "served well as a city director" for 10 years, with associations with lots of non-profit organizations.
- She supports the "private option" implementation of Medicaid expansion.
- She supports pre-K expansion.
- She "has expressed to me personally a number of refreshingly progressive stances on some social issues." No real word on what those are; for all we know, she could be against the "no abortions after 12 weeks" law but in favor of the "no abortions after 20 weeks" law, which would be progressive for a Republican.
McNeal then concedes that Clarke Tucker more accurately represents his views.
Turns out that the real reason McNeal supports Hurst is because Republicans are "unwilling to compromise with Democrats"--which means, in his view, that we need to elect a Republican. His theory is that electing Clarke Tucker will lock our district "out of the room" because the Republicans won't work with him. (McNeal assumes that Republicans are going to be in control.) Instead, if we're going to have any hope of influencing the Legislature, we need to elect a Republican. And his choice is Stacy Hurst, because she's willing to stand up to her fellow Republicans.
As the post title indicates, that's one of the dumbest, most self-contradictory things I've ever heard.
Here's the real story:
The last edition of the House of Representatives featured 51 Republicans, 48 Democrats, and one Green. Because of the extraordinarily short 3-term limit, the makeup of the House turns over frequently. Because few organizations poll state house races, we simply don't know what the makeup of the House will be come January.
Let's say the GOP does retain control of the House and Hurst wins. If they have more than a one-vote margin, who will be the first Republican they ignore? Stacy Hurst--because the more conservative Republicans are professionals at shutting out those who disagree with them, which will almost certainly include Hurst on any issue that McNeal thinks is important.
Meanwhile, since we know little about how Hurst would vote in the House (aside from her support for the private option, which passed a Republican-led General Assembly to begin with, so Representative Hurst wouldn't be unique), it's entirely possible that as a functional matter Hurst will be a reliable GOP vote on most issues.
Which means that her votes would, in most cases, not reflect anything that is broadly representative of her district.
I have little tolerance for Democrats who whine that we need to elect Republicans because the Republicans are so mean.
If electing Clarke Tucker means he's "out of the room," so be it. But what happens if we elect Hurst, and the Democrats somehow end up controlling the House?
Well, I suppose it's a fair point that the Democrats would work with Hurst, because Democrats are interested in good ideas no matter where they come from.
I don't agree with McNeal that the "glory days of the Democratic Party of Arkansas are probably over." True, there aren't any liberals left with the stature of a McMath, a Clinton, a Bumpers, or a (David) Pryor.** But you can't fight demographics. There will be a time in the near future when the Republicans find themselves locked out of the majority, even in Arkansas, by their relentless anti-minority programme. How do we profit as Arkansans by rewarding the Republicans for that agenda at a time when it doesn't quite cost them elections?
** - There were plenty of Democrats in those "glory days" who weren't so progressively glorious, either. **cough** Faubus **cough** As the pre-eminent political scientist V.O. Key, Jr., observed back in 1949, the one-party (Democratic) system in the South was really a "no-party" system--everyone, conservative to liberal, was a Democrat, so the party label meant nothing about actual politics.
The Republicans have spent a lot of energy and money over the last decade or so to purify their party into an arch-conservative theocracy-loving economy-wrecking machine. It's a terrible thing, but it has happened. When you put the R by your name, you're signing up for that legacy. Stacy Hurst doesn't get to throw us a few bones and pretend that legacy doesn't apply to her.
If you're in District 35, and you haven't voted yet, please consider voting for Clarke Tucker.