With a free lunch, bingo with prizes and other treats on the menu, more than 300 senior citizens showed up on Aug. 9 for Senior Day at the Fulton County Fair.
Since seniors are known for turning out to vote, a number of politicians showed up too, to shake hands, pass out hand fans and "vote for me" cards.
State Rep. Lori Benedict, a Salem Republican who is seeking reelection to the new District 61 House seat, was present -- as was her Democratic opponent, Scott Baltz of Pocahontas. Earlier in the week, they squared off at a candidates' forum sponsored by the Salem VFW, and you can read more about them in a article which begins on the front page.
Some other visiting candidates are people many in this area are probably less familar with.
State Senator Missy Irvin, a Mountain View Republican, who is seeking reelection has not been a frequent visitor to Salem, and her new district won't make it easier for her to visit if she is reelected. When Senate Districts were redrawn this year to reflect population changes in the state, she wound up with one of the strangest districts ever. It is narrow and very long, running from western Fulton County all the way to Faulkner County, north of Little Rock. Irvin's husband is a physician, so she is very interested -- or concerned -- about health care reform. She is among a group of legislators who plan to try to strengthen state laws regarding human trafficking, which Irvin says is a growing problem in Arkansas, because laws to stop the enslavement of people are weak.
Irvin's Democratic challenger, William "Zac" White of Heber Springs, made his first campaign appearance in Fulton County. White is an attorney who officially launched his campaign on Aug. 1.
White, a laid back young man in a ball cap and sunglasses, said, since this is his first run for office, campaigning is new to him, but he has so far enjoyed meeting people.
"I feel like, if I can meet someone and spend some time with that person, that is a vote I will get," White said, as he said 'hello' to Salem seniors.
White said he wants to be elected so he can seek major ethics reform to clean up state goverment. White said he will not accept any campaign donations from corporations or lobbyists, and has called to Irvin, who he claims is expert in getting contributions from corporations and lobbyists, to do the same.
There is another White in the District 18 Senate race -- Paul White -- a Mountain View businessman who is running as an Independent. He ran a close race against Irvin in 2010 as a Republican. White was not at senior day at the fair, but a number of supporters manned a booth to promote his conservative stands.
Another new face at Senior Day at the Fair was Scott Ellington, the Democratic candidate seeking to unseat District One Congressman Rick Crawford.
Our area is at the edge of the first district, and Ellington did not make it to Fulton County during the primary.
Two years ago, in his first run for office, he was elected Prosecuting Attorney for the Second Judicial District, which covers Craighead County and five surrounding counties.
Ellington became nationally known for helping negotiate the plea agreement which resulted in the release of the West Memphis Three, three men who spent 17 years in prison -- after a much disputed conviction for the 1994 murders of three boys in West Memphis.
Ellington said many people asked him to run against Crawford and, "after praying on it," he jumped in the race on the last day to file for the May Primary election.
While Ellington raised only $50,000 for the primary, he defeated Rep. Clark Hall and a third candidate. Ellington fell about 300 votes shy of the majority he needed, however, and had to beat Hall, who had more money and the backing of the state Democratic Party, a second time to get the right to take on Crawford.
His campaign was further delayed because Ellington spent the month of July prosecuting and winning the death penalty for Jerry Lard, who was charged with the murder of Trumann police officer Jonathan Schmidt.
Ellington, who like Crawford lives in the Jonesboro area, called Crawford a "good guy," but criticized him for voting 99 percent of the time like his Republican leaders tell him too.
Ellington said, if elected, he will be an independent congresman, because lawmakers need to reach across the aisles more, and compromise to solve pressing problems.
Salem seniors heard the political sales pitches, and these are some of the names you will be hearing -- especially after Labor Day -- when campaigning for the Nov. 6 election really takes off.