Today marks the final part of our endorsements for the Arkansas General Assembly for races in Benton and Washington counties.
Early voting continues in the lead-up to the Nov. 6 general election. We hope readers take our recommendations into account, but do their own homework as well before casting their ballots.
If anyone is looking for a recent demonstration of why casting an early ballot has its perils, consider the case of Greg Leding, Democratic candidate for the Arkansas Senate in District 4. Tuesday evening, Leding was video-recorded confronting his Republican opponent, Dawn Clemence, 56. It was clearly a heated moment, made appallingly worse when Leding, 40, leapt onstage and hovered uncomfortably close to the diminutive Clemence as the face-to-face clash intensified. The video, taken in a loud room, doesn't include audio of their chat, but it's clear Leding was mad and sought to use his physical presence in an intimidating fashion. In doing so, he opened the door for Clemence and her supporters to turn his behavior into a political tool. All's fair in love and politics. Leding sort of apologized, then apparently became convinced of the inadequacy of his remorse and more directly apologized. He needed to, without equivocation.
So now voters are left to decide whether Leding's behavior negates what they know of his representation during four terms in the House and whether that makes Clemence the right choice to represent them for the next four years in the state Senate.
In our view, the answer to both questions is "no."
We made our endorsement decision for Leding in this race Monday and his appalling behavior Tuesday gave us pause to revisit our deliberations. As unacceptable as Leding's tantrum was, we're sure Clemence and her fellow Republicans agree that one momentary incident does not define a person. They've swallowed so many distasteful episodes from the president they must understand the concept of forgiveness.
If the whole Republican vs. Democrat thing is all that matters to you, our endorsement doesn't matter one wit. If you're more discerning in individual races, we suggest Leding's representation of his House district has been strong. He's vocal on issues, such as gun violence, but he's also capable of working with GOP members on common ground. He wants to work toward better wages for worker, an intensified focus on higher education at the state Capitol, landlord-tenant reforms and support for public education.
Clemence has no public record. We think sending a lawmaker with experience into the Senate is a smarter move for District 4's voters. We recommend those voters back Greg Leding.
State House of Representatives
Republican Bruce Coleman, 75, seeks a second term but faces a challenge from Democrat Donald R. McKinney, 42, for this district that runs from south of Goshen all the way down past Alma. The voters will tell us whether we're right, but Coleman's politics -- limited government involvement in people's lives -- and down-home demeanor seem to fit the district voters pretty well.
Kelly Scott Unger, 36, is an impressive Democratic candidate in a district unlikely to support one, and Republican Robin Lundstrum, 55, has the benefit of having served three terms representing the district in the House. We've heard little in the way of complaints about Lundstrum's representation and, unlike a few of her colleagues, she has given voters no reason to question her integrity or ethics. We recommend Lundstrum for another two-year term.
The race in District 90 is really no race at all. Democrat Kati McFarland, 27, has been a no-show even though she filed to challenge two-term incumbent Republican Jana Della Rosa, 42. If voters want someone to represent them at the state Capitol, they need someone to show up. Della Rosa is a Republican with enough of an independent streak that she's served the district smartly. We recommend voters give her another opportunity to represent them.
Jim Dotson, 40, seeks his fourth term in the House representing his extremely conservative causes more so than the people of his district. Was anyone clamoring for a law requiring school districts to place "In God we trust" posters in classrooms? Was that a burning issue? District 93 is a changing population of people and his challenger, Democrat Gayatri Jane Agnew, 37, represents a broadening of ideas within that district. Has it changed enough? Count us skeptical, but we know Dotson hasn't changed a bit and we're not sure he's so much a representative of the people as he is of himself. Agnew, a senior director of corporate philanthropy for the Walmart Foundation, is smart, informed and full of potential, a mother of two youngsters who knows education, not posters, are critical to the district's future. She admires Republican Dan Douglas as a "poster child" for effective legislators, and that's an admirable example to follow. We recommend Gayatri Agnew as a better choice to represent the people of District 93.
Voters in this north Benton County district deserve a representative. Austin McCollum, 27, was elected two years because he's the Republican. His representation -- i.e., his lack of accessibility to voters -- suggests he's relying heavily on voters expecting little more than the "R" beside his name. We think a representative ought to be visible and easy to reach. He's not. Celeste Williams, 43, of Bella Vista is a Democrat who has lived in District 95 for seven years and is serious about being a representative of the people. She said McCollum ignored her calls to discuss health care -- she's a nurse practitioner -- and that motivated her to run for the office. She appears ready to devote herself to the concerns of constituents, not just a pledge to an ideology that's seems to be as far as McCollum is ready to go. The Republican Party of Arkansas has even tried nasty mailbox politics to damage Williams, which they wouldn't need to do if McCollum were a stronger presence among the people he's supposed to represent. We recommend a vote for Celeste Williams for any constituents who are tired of being taken for granted.
Harlan Breaux, 71, boils things down pretty simply: He can't think of anything the Republican Party supports that he might oppose. Gary Morris, 71, was a Republican for years but shifted Democrat after the U.S. invaded Iraq without sufficient evidence related to the Sept. 11 attacks. As a Vietnam-era veteran, sending U.S. troops into an unneeded war offended him. Today, Morris and Breaux hope District 97 voters will favor them. We recommend Morris, who we think will be a more independent voice for the district on the many issues that come before the General Assembly, including support for agriculture, education, tourism, efficiency, accountability and integrity in public office.
Commentary on 10/26/2018
Print Headline: House, Senate picks