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No Wonder Voters are ConfusedPosted Tuesday, October 19, 2010, at 4:31 PM
After 14 years as Arkansas' First District Congressman, Marion Berry is stepping down. What do you know about the two main candidates who are campaigning to replace him?
If you ask someone what they know about Republican Rick Crawford, they might say, 'well, he wants to impose a 23% tax on almost everything'. Causey commercials have told us time after time that is what Crawford is for.
As for Causey, a television watching citizen is likely to say, 'he worked for Marion Berry in Washington and he's best friends with Nancy Pelosi, who is helping him get elected so he can help continue the liberal Obama/Pelosi agenda in Washington.' At least, that is what, around the clock, Crawford commercials tell us about Causey.
So, at six a.m., Monday, Oct. 11th, I left Salem and headed for Conway where Causey and Crawford would finally get the chance to speak for themselves. I was going to be one of three journalists who were going to question the candidates and enlighten voters at an Arkansas public television debate.
As eleven a.m. neared, I had been worked over by a makeup artist and hooked up to a microphone on the brightly lit stage of a University of Central Arkansas auditorium. My two colleagues and I sat while three candidates (Green Party candidate Ken Adler joined Causey and Crawford) stood at podiums across from us and waited for the questions to fly.
I was chosen to ask first and pointed out that all three candidates seem to be running on the same platform: all favoring helping small business and agriculture, all wanting to protect Social Security and gun rights, all wanting to go to Washington to put an end to crazy federal spending sprees. So, I asked, what new ideas or philosophies do the candidates have that separate them from the rest of the pack and made them the candidate to vote for?
Ken Adler responded that, after years of watching Democrats get elected only to see Republicans knock them down (and vice-versa), his new idea was that more independents need to be elected to stop the vicious cycle. Chad Causey said his new idea is an old one:
take Arkansas common sense to Washington to seek a balanced budget amendment and a 10% cut in Congressional pay. Causey also pledged to work for energy independence, making Arkansas a center for power created by wind, solar, and bio-fuel. Rick Crawford responded that discussing new ideas is nice but he is convinced the biggest threat the country faces is "Obamacare", the health care reform package that he claimed will eliminate jobs and hurt seniors, through Medicare cuts.
It, immediately, became clear that Crawford had been programmed to spout his anti-Obamacare message early and often. Crawford had little interest in discussing other
issues. By his staff's own count, Crawford attacked "Obamacare" and claimed Causey wanted to go to Congress to support the health care reform package "no less than 23 times."
Democrat Causey immediately used the next debate question to claim Crawford's main goal in Washington will be to support "a 23% national sales tax on almost everything we buy". For good measure, he threw in his other favorite attack: Crawford's desire to privatize Social Security, let people risk their Social Security by investing the funds in the stock market.
So it went, questions asked received brief answers and, no matter what the question, the two candidates always found a way to attack each other on the topics their handlers insisted must be emphasized at all cost.
Does Causey really support health care reform as passed? He repeatedly insisted he would not have voted for the bill and saw lots to change but admitted some aspects of the bill, including prohibiting insurance companies from denying insurance because of pre-existing conditions, are beneficial and do not have to be changed.
Does Crawford really favor a 23% national sales tax? Causey said during the debate,
"Crawford and an aide have said he supports a national sales tax many times. It's the truth." Crawford accused Causey of going from "distortion to flat out lies". I have never supported a flat tax or a fair tax and that is not my platform, Crawford insisted."
In an after-debate interview, Causey told reporters there is a tape of Crawford expressing support for a national sales tax and Social Security privatization in a meeting with Republicans in Lonoke. But, Causey also admitted it was a Crawford aide who said a national sales tax was "an interesting concept" on a Facebook site. In other words, there is little to no evidence Crawford is working day and night to promote a radical tax increase in the middle of a devastating recession.
Crawford did not show up to talk with reporters after the debate but one of his advisors who did could cite no proof Causey is a big supporter of health care reform or using cash from Nancy Pelosi to fund his campaign, as Crawford's ads constantly claim. The aide, Ted Prill, complained National Democratic organizations were spending 1.1 million dollars to help Causey and union groups were pouring $450,000 into the race. But Prill did not comment on the big bucks Republican groups are, obviously, spending to help Crawford.
The First District has been a Democrat House seat for most of the last 110 years, so Democrats are hopeful Causey can convince voters he is a "conservative Democrat" worth voting for.
Republicans are convinced this is the year they finally capture the First. John McCain took 58% of the vote in the 2008 campaign against President Obama.
All that means, the money will keep pouring in and the attack ads will keep going out until November third comes around and the votes are counted.
The sad thing is, between now and November second, voters will be casting votes based on which of the untrue or half-true ads that are bombarding them. There is no real debate on the issues to help guide voters to make a rational choice on which of the two newcomers is really the best choice to represent our district.
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I used to call this blog "Stranger In Town" but time goes by quickly. After a year in these parts, I realize people will still say, 'he's from off' but I now proudly claim I am a "Stranger No More"! After a lifetime in living in big cities, small town life has produced surprises, good and bad but, after more than a year, I love it (most of the time!). I promise to keep on writing about stuff that interests me and things I think of to complain about. I hope you will continue to check in occasionally to read and comment.
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