One of the most interesting pieces of political news lately is the upcoming battle for the Democratic nomination for the senate seat in Arkansas. Lieutenant Governor Bill Halter has thrown his hat in the ring against incumbent Senator Blanche Lincoln. The results of the primary could give us an accurate view on how the electorate reacts to moderate Democratic incumbents.
Bill Halter has a very impressive resume to speak of. He studied economics and political science at Stanford University, then went on to complete his graduate studies at Oxford University in England. He is the former deputy commissioner of the social security administration, and also served as a senior advisor with the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). While at the OMB, he was a big part of the reason that President Clinton turned a 290 billion deficit into a 125 billion surplus while he was president.
His next move was to run for Lieutenant Governor, which was a successful endeavor. One would think that going up against an incumbent with the power that Blanche Lincoln has would be considered a suicide mission. In normal times it would be….but normal times these are not. Senator Lincoln has been getting a constant drumbeat of criticism from both the left and the right. Republicans are upset that she cast one of the deciding votes which allowed healthcare legislation to advance in the Senate. Liberal groups are enraged at her initial support, but later opposition to the Employee Free Choice Act. They also are none too pleased at Lincoln’s position on opposing a public option for healthcare.
Halter has used this anger from the left as a tool to raise huge sums of money for his campaign. Blanche Lincoln has 5.02 million on hand to use in the election. A few days after Halter announced he would challenge Lincoln, he received a million dollar campaign contribution from Moveon.org. Four labor unions(AFSCME, CWA, SEIU, Steelworkers) have each pledged 1 million a piece. Though Halter may lose, at least he will have the necessary funds to make this race interesting
Halter plans to run on a “anti-Washington, pro-Arkansas” platform, and highlight Blanch Lincolns cozy relationship with special interests, and her failure to take on these interests, and fight for Arkansas families. He will focus on change, and will cast himself as an elected official that will put the issues that Arkansas voters may have above those of the monied special interests. It’s possible that it may resonate, because according to a recent Rasmussen poll, 64% of people in Arkansas think it would be good if most incumbents are defeated in the November elections. In this same Rasmussen poll, it stated that Blanche Lincoln is pulling about 38-41% of voters when you match her up with the various Republicans she may run against in the general election. Bill Halter comes in around 33-38%.
Halter may give Lincoln a run for her money. My guess is that he may be a little to the left in terms of what Arkansas voters are comfortable with. Then again, they did elect him as Lieutenant Governor(a statewide office). We will wait and see what happens.