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Friday, Apr. 29, 2016

Irvin Faces Two Challengers in Senate Re-election Bid

Saturday, October 27, 2012

State Senator Missy Irvin campaigns at the Salem Senior Center as the November election nears. Irvin has two opponents, Democrat Zac White and Independent Paul White. [Order this photo]
State Senator Missy Irvin, a Republican, is shaking hands at the Salem Senior Center, and talking about Democratic Governor Mike Beebe.

"We cut $35 million in taxes working together," Irvin tells seniors. "We all (both parties) wanted to cut the grocery tax further, and we increased the exemption on a used car purchase from $2,500 to $5,000."

Irvin, a Mountain View resident, defeated Fulton County State Rep. Curren Everett in 2009, as he ran for the Senate seat which represents six area counties.

When Senate lines were redrawn earlier this year, Irvin's district changed dramatically. The new district she will represent, beginning in January, is long and skinny, and includes parts of 13 counties.

"My district runs from Fulton County to Faulkner," Irvin explained as she talked to seniors.

Instead of complaining she was the victim of a Democratic Party plot to make her re-election difficult, Irvin told a reporter, "The state's growth has been in the north west part of the state, so our area had to be redrawn to reflect a loss of population."

Irvin admitted campaigning is not easy, since her district begins at the Missouri state line and ends at Guy, in Faulkner County.

"I have helped a lot of folks in my current district, so I enjoy campaigning in the counties that are still in my new district," Irvin explained. "It's great to come back to area's I've represented. I've spent a lot of time in Salem and Fulton County, but I have also been getting to know people and campaigning in the seven new counties in my district."

While Fulton County has traditionally voted Democratic, Irvin feels she has a lot of local support.

"I try to reach out to Democrats. I tell them, 'I believe how you believe.' I'm a common sense conservative," Irvin said.

State Democrats have criticized Irvin and Rep. Lori Benedict for getting campaign help from wealthy Republican Political Action Committees. who, Democrats claim, are trying to influence local elections. Irvin said she has no control over PACs and, by law, she cannot communicate with them, and is not notified when they run ads in her behalf.

"I have raised my own funds. People like what I've done (as Senator), and are donating to my campaign. I have support from both sides of the aisle."

While knocking on doors in Guy, Ark., Irvin's Democratic challenger, Zac White, says he is working pretty much full time to reach voters all over the new District 18.

"I was at Quitman yesterday. After I finish up at Guy, I'm heading to Marshall to a Democrat meeting there," White said."This district is very rural, so a lot of the time I ride in the back of my pickup truck and jump out when we see a house."

White claims he has received no financial help from the state Democratic party or Democratic PACs, but he believes state Democrats have been pleasantly surprised by his campaign.

"They (Democratic leaders) kind of wrote the district off to the Republicans. They didn't expect I would be such a strong candidate, or raise as much money as I have," White said.

According to White, he has raised almost $70,000, which has surprised many since he will not accept campaign contributions from lobbyists or corporations.

"I have probably sent $6,000 or $7,000 in contributions back. I am running to seek ethics reform (in government). The first bill I will introduce when I'm elected will be to stop lobbyists and corporations from gaining influence through campaign contributions," White said. "Missy (Sen. Irvin) gets most of her contributions from lobbyists and out of state companies."

In September, Governor Beebe attended a White fundraiser in Heber Springs, White's hometown, and spoke on his behalf at a Fulton County Democratic Rally on Oct. 6.

White, who is an attorney, has never run for political office before, but he seems confident as election day nears.

"I feel like I have good momentum. People are figuring out who I am and what I stand for. While I've lost some campaign contributions from businesses, I'm gaining support from people who like to see a candidate try to do something about the high cost of campaigns, and are tired of people getting elected and forgetting who elected them," White said, as he headed to another door to knock on.

The wild card in the District 18 race is Independent candidate Paul White, of Mountain View. White narrowly lost the 2009 Republican primary to Irvin, and is running as an independent in the November election.

Some Republicans, who supported White in 2009, quit the Stone County Republican Committee when they were told they could not sign White's petition seeking to be included on the ballot as an Independent.

Zac White, a candidate for State Senate, speaks to Fulton County Democrats as part of his efforts to meet voters in the 13 county district he hopes to represent. [Order this photo]
White's name on the ballot could take votes away from Irvin in her home county, and having two Whites, Zac and Paul, on the ballot for the Senate seat could cause confusion among voters as to which White they want to vote for.

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