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story.lead_photo.caption Michael John Gray

SPRINGDALE -- The secret to converting people is to talk to, not yell at, them, state Democratic Party Chairman Michael John Gray said Tuesday.

"Some of us want to scream pretty loud, and I understand that," Gray, a state representative from Augusta, told the Washington County Senior Democrats at its lunch meeting.

Democrats are frustrated over last year's election results and have every right to be, he said.

"But if you go out and have conversations with 10 people, and three of them change their minds, every one of the candidates here today will win overwhelmingly," he said, referring to legislative candidates at the lunch.

He commended Northwest Arkansas for attracting so many candidates so early. Democratic candidates have announced plans to run for at least six legislative seats that are now held by Republicans in Benton and Washington counties. The candidate filing period begins in February.

Jim Estes, Washington County chairman for the Republican Party, commended Gray for his remarks and said being civil and reasonable have long been goals of his.

"We can have conversations without calling each other names and having ad hominem arguments," Estes said.

"I don't think most people want to be yelling at each other," Estes said. "I hate to say it, but I think a lot of it has been induced by the reporting that goes on. No doubt we're going to have disagreements, and will often have to agree to disagree, but it's unfortunate how often things go the way they do."

Gray said Northwest Arkansas' voters are largely Republican and will stay that way until and unless Democrats offer them an alternative instead of insisting conservative voters make some admission of being wrong. After the speech, he addressed the question of abortion as an example of an issue where Democrats could make a reasonable argument.

"If you really want to end abortion, ask yourself this: Who really does more to reduce the number of abortions?" Gray said. "Is it the legislator who says I'm going to go pass something that stops it right now, then gets overturned by the courts and does not stop a single abortion? Or is it the legislator who does something about women's health, birth control and lifting people out of poverty so they can afford another child?"

"There is no great seven-word answer that Democrats can give on that issue," Gray said. "It takes a conversation."

In his remarks to the group, Gray said there was a "line forming" of Democrats who want to run against U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton of Dardanelle when he comes up for re-election in 2020.

Arkansans in the northwest corner also need to take an interest in races outside their region, Gray told the crowd.

"Little Rock can survive just with Little Rock," he said of Democratic prospects. "Northwest Arkansas can survive with just Northwest Arkansas. The rest of us need you."

A rural-urban divide in Arkansas politics is more mental than real, Gray said.

"Drive from anywhere in Arkansas and you can be at a cow pasture in 10 minutes," he said.

Metro on 11/22/2017

Print Headline: Democrat urges more talk, less yelling

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