When he arrived, he took the time to work the entire room and shake the hand of most of the 100 folks in attendance. This was the third in a series of four Political Animals Club meetings featuring Arkansas gubernatorial candidates. The other two candidates did not work the room and seemed a bit awkward at one-on-one exchanges.
I have already given you my take on Asa Hutchinson and Curtis Coleman. Next, we’ll take a look at Rep. Debra Hobbs, who has absolutely no business being in this race, but she is — and a few brave souls will pay $20 at 7 a.m. to hear her speak.
I think I can call the race now. I think Mike Ross will be the next governor. As Political Animals chairman Rex Nelson pointed out, that will give us 27 years of having a "Mike" as governor (if Ross serves two terms).
I don’t think it will be a landslide victory, but I think Ross will get about 55 percent of the votes against Asa Hutchinson.
I told you that both Hutchinson and Coleman touted tax reform as the cornerstone of their campaigns. Both say that this reform will lead to improved economic development, create jobs and attract industry.
The problem with both of their ideas is that they don’t have any plans that they have been willing to reveal. Asa says it would be tweaks on the state income tax while Curtis says we need to reform the entire tax code. Both were asked by the media how they plan to pull off these tax reforms and what effect it would have on state revenues. Neither had a specific answer. And that’s where Mike Ross stuck in his sword. This is when he started sounding like a governor.
He blasted both candidates for their lack of details on their tax reforms and said that when you take away funding, you take away services. He was sounding like an incumbent instead of someone chasing the office.
He categorically listed the downside of cavalierly cutting existing taxes. I don’t have the exact retort he used, but it came down to him saying for every action there’s a reaction. In other words, something has to go when you eliminate its funding.
Don’t get me wrong, I think there is plenty of government waste and frivolous spending, but I think most of it is at the federal level.
Mike Ross said he would continue the work of Mike Beebe, particularly in the areas of education and economic development. And he pointed out the relevancy of one to the other.
He wants to invest more in early childhood and STEM education. STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and math. He claims that’s the where the jobs are now and in the future.
He also emphasizes "career tech," what we used to call "vo-tech." And, judging from the astronomical growth of Pulaski Technical College and other two-year programs, that idea is certainly catching on.
Those with technical training will not only have better jobs, but will help the state attract more industry because of the demand for a trained workforce, Ross says.
Many will oppose him because they say he was the deciding vote for "Obamacare." Ross says that is blatant lie created by the other party. The bill he voted on was a different bill, he says. He says his constituents said they were opposed to Obamacare and he announced in 2009 that he would oppose it. There will be much more discussion to come on this. I’m not quite sure I understand his explanation. I’m pretty sure I don’t even understand Obamacare.
Beebe has endorsed Ross, Bill Halter has also endorsed him and he’s raised over $2 million so far. But he stressed he has never won a statewide election. He’s been a state legislator and a congressman. His Democratic opponent, Hobbs, has also never run for a state office. Coleman ran and lost for the U.S. Senate and Hutchinson ran and lost against Winston Bryant for attorney general in 1990.
This is going to be a very long campaign. Add in the Pryor/Cotton race and I assure you that we’ll all be sick of campaign rhetoric and advertising.
Bookout is an embarrassment
I won’t honor him by calling him senator, but hopefully-soon-to-be-former state Senator Paul Bookout betrayed the public trust by spending tens of thousands of dollars of campaign funds on personal items like a home theater and clothing for his wife. He was fined by the Ethics Commission and said he would repay the money. Not good enough. You’re a thief. Get out.
Lowery opens an office
Our state representative, Mark Lowery, opened a "legislative affairs" office in the city office complex. Some don’t like the idea. I guess my question is whether we’ll give the two senators and other representative who represent Maumelle an office as well? Can you name the two senators and the other representative? More to come on that.
I would encourage Rep. Lowery to write a regular column for this paper at least once a month to keep us to date on what he’s up to. More to come on that.
See you on the Boulevard.
Neal Moore owns a creative consulting firm, Neal Moore Creative. He has lived in Maumelle over 10 years. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Facebook or on Twitter, @kneelmore.