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Sunday, May 1, 2016

Bendedict and Baltz Vie for District 61 Seat

Thursday, October 18, 2012

(Photo)
Rep. Lori Benedict with U.S. Senator John Boozman
When Scott Baltz decided to run for the District 61 State Representative seat, his previous campaign experience had been in Randolph County, where he has served five terms as a Justice of the Peace.

"It's a huge difference. Instead of covering a small JP district, it's a two hour drive from Randolph County to areas of Fulton and Baxter County," Baltz said.

"I've been spending a lot of time in Randolph County, meeting people and letting them know what I'm about," said incumbent Rep. Lori Benedict, Baltz' opponent, who saw her district grow under redistricting, from Fulton and parts of Baxter County to include Cherokee Village in Sharp County and a big piece of Randolph County.

Another change from her first run for office is a lot more help as she campaigns. "The Republican Party has put out some fliers to support me, and I think two conservative PACS (Political Action Committees) have also sent out mailers," Benedict said.

On Saturday, Oct. 6, Governor Mike Beebe traveled to Fulton County to speak in support of Democratic candidates for congress and state house and senate seats. After the local rally, Beebe and Baltz and Senator David Wyatt, who is seeking re-election in District 19, went on to campaign events in Cherokee Village and Randolph County.

"I was humbled that the Governor spent so much time with us, did this for David (Wyatt) and me," Baltz said. "He told me to stay with it, and keep up the good work."

On Tuesday, Oct. 9, Benedict received some big name help when U.S. Senator John Boozman attended her fundraiser at the Highlander Restaurant in Hardy. "This wasn't a big campaign event. It was a chance for some business people and doctors to get together with the senator," Benedict said. "He spoke for about 20 minutes and stayed on for about an hour to talk to people one on one."

"It is always great to be in Hardy and appreciate Lori's hospitality. We had a good discussion about the issues that are affecting Northeast Arkansas -- jobs, government spending, farming and more," Boozman told The News.

"Betty Speaks in Mountain Home asked Senator Boozman to help me with a fundraiser," Benedict said. "He knows I've been targeted by Democrats for opposing their policies."

Benedict and Baltz both know they are getting high powered help because Republicans are aiming to win majorities in the House and Senate, and Democrats are trying to fight them off.

After decades of controlling both chambers of the General Assembly, Democrats have just a seven seat majority (53 to 46) in the House, and a five seat majority (20 to 15) in the Senate.

Because Benedict was elected in 2010 to a seat that has traditionally been held by the Democrats, she is one of the Republicans targeted for defeat as she seeks re-election.

"They talk about Republican candidates getting outside help, but the Democrats have sent mailers attacking me," Benedict said. "They said I will cause teacher layoffs, higher taxes and all kinds of things because I have refused to work with the Governor. They said (in the mailer) Scott Baltz is needed to continue the Beebe agenda. Baltz denies that he will be controlled by the Democrats, but you can see he will be."

"I'm getting pretty tired of her saying I'm like the Washington bureaucrats, and will do everything the Democrats tell me to do," Baltz said. "I might take some lumps in Little Rock, but I will never do anything, unless it's in the best interest of this district. I'm hard headed. I'm a Baltz."

Baltz said he has no control over what the Democratic Party sends out in the district, and it might "go negative," but the three fliers he plans to send out before the election will stay positive, outlining his political views and what he wants to do to help the district.

Baltz is running a newspaper ad criticizing Benedict, but he says she started it.

At an Aug. 6, joint appearance in Salem, Baltz told a forum that, in the last session, Benedict voted against a bill banning gay marriage in the state.

Benedict responded that her vote was recorded incorrectly, and she had asked the House Clerk to correct it. Later, Benedict said she had voted "no" on the bill in question as a protest.

"The bill made just a few minor changes in the wording of the state marriage law (which prohibits same sex marriage)," Benedict said. "There were such slight changes, they didn't need to waste our time with it, so I voted no. Everyone knows I would never support gay marriage."

Baltz's print ad takes exception to a Benedict radio ad that accused him of distorting her position on gay marriage, and said he was either incompetent and couldn't read the bill or was lying about her."

"She was negative and disrespectful to me," Baltz said. "I'm running the ad to show people what the bill said and how she voted, then I'm going back to positive campaigning. I'm tired of negative politics."

"My last campaign (against Democrat Robert Hutcheson) was a good clean campaign," Benedict said. "That is what he (Baltz) said this campaign would be, then he distorted my voting record and I had to respond to the attack."

A Sunday, Oct. 7 article in the Arkansas Democrat Gazette listed Benedict as being among five Republican House members the state Democratic Party wants ousted because they are "too extreme" with actions or beliefs "that are way outside the mainstream."

"They can call me extreme all they want. I am really a normal, real conservative," Benedict said. "My views are totally in line with most of the people in this district. We think the same on most issues. I have a lot of support among Democrats, as well as Republicans, although most of them (Democrats) are scared to death to admit it."

Baltz says he, too, is a conservative on many issues, but he intends to represent everyone in the district, if elected.

"I don't have as much money as Mrs. Benedict, incumbents automatically get a lot of money in Little Rock," Baltz said. "But I am getting money from a lot of folks who are giving a little, and they are just as important to me as the big donors. I think I have enough to get my message out and be competitive."

(Photo)
Governor Mike Beebe with candidate Scott Baltz
With the Nov. 6 election just a little more than two weeks away, both Baltz and Benedict plan to be constantly out on the road to connect with as many voters as they can right up to election day.



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