Southern Politics

The 2010 Arkansas U.S. Senate election generated a lot of interest when Blanche Lincoln was primaried by Bill Halter, the Lt. Governor, and barely squeaked out ahead. Then, when a seat that had been held by Democrats for 131 years, was turned over to the Republican John Boozman, it hardly made a stir. Why would that be?

My guess is that what looks like a Cinderella story just doesn’t have a whole lot of appeal to the media prima donnas and campaign consultants who’d like everyone to believe that money is what decides elections. Maybe they just can’t get excited about the precedent the five-term Congressman set in spending just over $3 million to best not only seven other candidates in the primary, but the incumbent Democrat, Blanche Lincoln, who put over $12 million on the table to best Halter’s less than $3 million. That’s a lot of money and, in Lincoln’s case, a good chunk of it came from Stephens Inc. (bond brokers and bankers for Waltons and Tyson and Monsanto and funders of the Club for Growth).

Boozman, it should be noted, also got donations from Stephens and friends, but it was a pittance by people who were probably hedging their bets.

According to media reports, Boozman, who’d been serving as the assistant minority whip in the House, got into the race late after the surprising election of Scott Brown in Massachusetts — a surprise to the pols and pundits, but obviously not the voters who appreciated a man who’d served well on the local and state level and deserved to be promoted to the Senate. Perhaps they’re kindred spirits. Certainly, like Brown, Boozman, the optometrist and rancher, has a more proletarian background than the belle of Little Rock.

And Boozman has some interesting critics. For some reason the Women’s Action Group isn’t at all happy with this father of three daughters. Mostly, it seems, they object to him as a big spender:

Boozman received an average score of only 43% by the Club for Growth for 2006-2008 compared to true conservatives like Rep. Michelle Bachman’s 94% average and Senator Jim DeMint 100% average. Club for Growth’s goal is to cut taxes and treat taxpayers equally.

And he’s earned the enmity of one Debbie Pelley, who is reported to have testified before Congress about the destructive influence of rap music on one of the shooters in Jonesboro, Arkansas in 1998:

Mitchell’s English teacher, Debbie Pelley, told the senators that she had noticed Mitchell’s behavior begin changing in the months before the shootings, when he began listening to gangsta’ rap recordings. His teacher told the Senate committee: “Mitchell brought this music to school with him, listened to it on the bus, tried listening to it in classes. . . . He was far more into this music than anyone else his friends knew.”

English teachers and their opinions! Now that might explain a lot. In any case, it strikes me that just as Scott Brown needed to get past the local political machine to serve the people of his state, John Boozman had a similar problem to overcome in Arkansas. If so, perhaps he can find common cause with progressive Democrats as well.

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Monica Smith

Monica Smith writes Hannah's Blog. Born in Germany, she came to the United States as a child, living first in California, then after an interval in Chile, in New York. Married to a retired professor at the University of Florida, where she lived for 17 years, she moved to St. Simons Island, Georgia, in 1993 and now divides her time between Georgia and New Hampshire. (New Hampshire, she says, is always interesting during a presidential election.) She and her husband have three children and five grandchildren. Ms. Smith says she "learned long ago that I am not a good team player when I got hired at the Library of Congress, fresh out of college with a degree in political science and proficiency in four foreign languages, to 'edit' library cards and informed my supervisor that if she was going to insist I punch the clock exactly on time, my productivity was going to fall from being the highest to being the same as everyone else's. The supervisor opted to assign me to another building where there was no time-clock. After I had the first of our three children, I decided a paycheck wasn't worth the hassle."