Saturday, August 29, 2009

Blanche Lincoln in trouble?

lincoln Here’s one of those stories that actually concerns me a bit. According to a recent poll, U.S. Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) enjoys a miserable 36 percent approval rating in this state.

Uh, Lincoln’s got an election coming up next year. The poll numbers can’t be good news for her.

Now, I’m a Republican so I should view that as good news, right? Actually, I’m not so sure.

Let me explain. First of all, Lincoln is a hell of a lot better than our other senator, Mark Pryor. He epitomizes the phrase “empty suit” and apparently believes that he is representing his party simply by voting the way the national Democrats want him to on each and every issue.

Lincoln, by contrast, is more than a bit different. I headed to Washington, D.C., back in 2006 with the organization I work for (they howl every time I mention them on this little blog, so they’ll remain nameless) and we were concerned about some health care legislation that died on the Senate floor. We asked both Pryor and Lincoln why they voted against the bill.

Pryor danced around the issue for awhile, claimed we didn’t have a health care bill allowing small businesses to join together and take advantage of the group rates large corporations enjoy because the Republicans were being unfair. Yes, it was all the fault of the Republicans, see, that the bill failed – they wouldn’t let the Democrats add any amendments and blah, blah, bloppity blah. Pryor’s whining and finger pointing are, sadly, commonplace. His father was equally mealy-mouthed and unimpressive as a U.S. senator.

When we asked Lincoln the same question, she looked us square in the eyes and said, “I didn’t vote for it because it’s a bad bill.” She then outlined what she thought a better bill would be and laid out her position very well. While we didn’t agree with her, she at least had the gumption to explain her vote and why she didn’t like the legislation at issue rather than blaming the Republicans and taking no responsibility for her vote. I can respect that.

Lincoln has, over the years, has demonstrated that she does have the interest of her constituents at heart and has typically attempted to listen to what we say instead of just following the party line. In short, I like the woman and I’ve voted for her twice.

Now, here’s the problem with her being in a potential rotten spot right before the November elections. I might feel a bit better about things if the Republicans could field a top notch candidate against her. However, there are nine Republicans (as of this writing) who may or may not run in the primaries and they range from trouble making gadflies to quality candidates that are a bit unknown.

If we were just talking about a straight-up race against the Republican primary winner and Lincoln, than that’s one thing. Hey, I’d love to see Gilbert Baker (who seems to change his mind daily about running) or Tom Cotton jump in the race and wind up in the Senate.

Ah, but we may not be talking about a race against Lincoln at all. No, State Sen. Bob Johnson (D-Bigelow) may run against Lincoln in the primaries. Given this state’s knack of voting for Republicans in presidential elections and sticking with Democrats in congressional races (out of our six-member congressional delegation, only one of them is a Republican), that worries me.

Frankly, Johnson sucks. Let’s look at some of the things he’s done that I absolutely detest:

* He sponsored legislation in 2005 allowing Hot Springs and West Memphis to hold elections allowing electronic games at those city’s race tracks (horse in the case of Hot Springs, greyhounds in the case of West Memphis). Those machines were approved, thus allowing us to continue the odd practice of allowing gambling in two cities but no other ones in Arkansas. Either ban it completely or let everyone have it. There’s no sense in allowing two groups to hold a monopoly and allowing them to make it more profitable by coming up with new ways to rip off the public is appalling.

* Also in 2005 (a banner year for Johnson, seemingly), he sponsored legislation that would allow Deltic Timber to to stick a housing development in the watershed of Lake Maumelle. The problem with that, of course, is that Lake Maumelle is central Arkansas’ primary water source. What the hell? Why back something that will clearly lead to more pollution of drinking water in the area? That effort – fortunately – failed.

* In 2006, he was in the middle of a controversy in the Arkansas Supreme Court. Justices found the Legislature’s method of providing funding for local projects violated the state constitution and pointed to Johnson’s $400,000 appropriate for road projects in Bigelow (his hometown) as a particularly glaring example of how the system was broken. Uh, Bigelow has about 300 people in it. What was that $400,000 used for and what kind of road project costs that much in Bigelow?

* Johnson backed that blasted cigarette tax last year to pay for a statewide trauma system (necessary) and a lot of other health-related stuff (probably not necessary). That measure passed and I’ve always had an objection to it. We voted to hold a statewide lottery that will generate cash for college scholarships. If, indeed, the money that is used for those scholarships now is replaced by lottery revenue, why not take that surplus and use it for a trauma system? He may call himself a conservative Democrat, but he’s sure as hell not a fiscal conservative. We could use a few of those right now.

* A few years ago when Republican Mike Huckabee was governor, Johnson – yet again – proved he loves spending those taxpayer dollars. He backed the governor’s plan to float $1 billion in bonds to pay for road repairs, see – a notion that infuriated a lot of us Republicans who’d like to see the government cut spending rather than increasing it and taking on more debt.

Again, Lincoln’s weak position in the polls may turn out to be a blessing if we get a strong Republican running for her Senate seat. However, I could well see a situation where that Johnson character gets in office and continues his spendthrift, pork-barreling ways on a national level.

He claims to be a conservative, rebel Democrat who is hard to define. That’s a bunch of nonsense as he’s fairly easy to define. If a project involves spending taxpayer dollars, you can bet he’ll be there pushing for it.

I think I’d prefer to see Lincoln have another term if Johnson is the alternative, honestly. I may not always agree with Lincoln, but I do like her and believe she’s looking out for the best interests of her constituents. I’m not quite sure what that Johnson character would do.

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