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OPINION | JOHN BRUMMETT: Is there fight in old Hog?

by John Brummett | July 14, 2021 at 2:48 a.m.

We woke up Monday morning to news that a former Razorback had announced his Republican candidacy for the U.S. Senate on Fox News.

There was a time, back in the ancient 20-teens, when an Arkansas political candidate would announce his candidacy in Arkansas. But now an Arkansas political candidate needs to reach Arkansas voters. So, he goes on Fox.

The candidate, Jake Bequette, is a Little Rock Catholic standout who made All-SEC as a football defensive end, played a short while for the New England Patriots, then went in the Army to serve in Iraq, and now, at 32, seems to be fashioning a political persona as Tom Cotton with athletic skill and personality, or Sarah Sanders with more testosterone.

His Fox appearance was coupled with the new staple of campaign announcements--a stirring video. In his, Bequette boasts that he once sacked Tim Tebow; that some Republicans in Washington aren't sufficiently subservient to Donald Trump, and that the liberals--he posts photos of Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez--should just try and block him.

There's a lot to unpack there.

One: I don't know why it would commend a Christian conservative candidate for the U.S. Senate that he once knocked down a fellow Christian conservative like Tebow. What if he'd hurt him?

Two: The veteran Republican incumbent whom the upstart Bequette presumes to replace, John Boozman, was once a Razorback defensive lineman himself. But that was back before recorded video. It may be that, to counter Bequette's sack of Tebow, Boozman will need to dart across the Senate floor and take down Tommy Tuberville.

Three: What could Boozman possibly be lacking in Trump allegiance? He's spent the last few years fully Trump-genuflected. Trump actually has endorsed him, which is somehow an advantage among Arkansas Republicans.

When I couldn't think the other day of any anti-Trump position Boozman had taken, I was reminded that Boozman had voted to accept formally, as was his constitutional duty, the certified presidential election returns. So, yes, it is true that Boozman did not volunteer for armed service in the insurrection. Not even Cotton did. Presumably, Bequette faults Boozman for not enlisting actively in the revolution against democracy.

Already Bequette has accomplished something I thought impossible. There are two Republicans state senators who define the freak-right extreme in the state. Bequette has managed to drive a wedge between them.

Trent Garner of El Dorado tweeted in support of Bequette. Bob Ballinger of Berryville tweeted that Boozman was a great old Hog and was irreplaceable in terms of constituent service.

Praising a senator's constituent service is a nice way of saying he doesn't have any bona fides on policy and that his political skills are those of a nice guy and not those of a man at the podium.

You would think that Boozman remains such a recipient of good will in the state that Bequette would be hard up against it. Not only has Trump endorsed Boozman, but Cotton has, too, and Sanders formerly was Boozman's campaign manager and remains close to him.

Still, it was a dozen years ago now when Boozman beat more than a half-dozen GOP primary challengers without a runoff.

That's a long time. Arkansas has gone politically berserk since then.

John Brummett, whose column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, is a member of the Arkansas Writers' Hall of Fame. Email him at [email protected] Read his @johnbrummett Twitter feed.

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