An Analysis of the 2006 Arkansas Gubernatorial Race

Elections 2006 Daniel Roettger This year the voters of Arkansas will vote for change. Current Governor Huckabee is term limited which opens up the race completely. On the ballot, there are four candidates, but only two have a measurable chance of taking office, and the following will focus on those two candidates. The candidate for the Democratic Party, Mike Beebe, is considered the favorite for election. Beebe was born in 1946 in Jackson County, Arkansas. He has a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Arkansas, which he obtained in 1968, and a degree of law, which he received four years later also from the University of Arkansas. At this time, Beebe served in the U.S. Army Reserves. Beebe practiced law for the ten years after receiving his degree. Then in 1982, he was elected to become a state senator. He served in the State Senate for twenty years until elected the Attorney General of Arkansas in 2002. Four years later, he is the Democratic Party candidate in 2006. His charismatic demeanor and quick thinking make Beebe a perfect selection for the candidacy. Beebe also has three grown children and a wife, Ginger (www.mikebeebe.com). The Republican candidate, Asa Hutchinson, was born in 1950. After attending and graduating from Bob Jones University, Hutchinson received his degree of law from the University of Arkansas. Following this, Hutchinson practiced law in Fort Smith, Arkansas, a city in far western Arkansas. After practicing law for twenty-one years, Hutchinson was appointed the United States District Attorney for Western Arkansas. Hutchinson’s early political career was filled with losses in 1986 in an election for Senate

against incumbent Dale Bumpers and in 1990 for Attorney General. Following this loss, Hutchinson became the chairman for the State Republican Party. Then in 1996, Hutchinson’s brother ran for Senate, vacating his House incumbency. Asa was then elected to the House of Representatives in 1996. He gained re-election for the next two terms and in November of 2000 was appointed the head of the DEA. Six years later, Hutchinson, with his experienced resume of public service, became the Republican candidate for Governor. He has four grown kids and is married to Susan Hutchinson (www.asaforgovernor.org). The candidate for the Green Party is Jim Lendall. Lendall served in the Arkansas Legislature for eight years, in 1988 through 1990 as an Independent and then in 1998 to 2004 as a Democrat. Lendall also served his country in 1969-1971 in the United States Army. Lendall also has a very diverse educational background. In 1974, Lendall graduated from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock with a Bachelor of Arts in History and Political Science. Then eleven years later, Lendall graduated from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, this time getting a Bachelor of Science as a Registered Nurse and a Nurse Practitioner. Since 1985, Lendall has been a Registered Nurse at Arkansas Children’s Hospital (www.jimlendall2006.com). The fourth and final gubernatorial candidate is Rod Bryan of Bradley. Bryan attended Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia. He played football for OBU and was a four-year letterman. After graduation from OBU, Bryan and his brother started a band, ho-hum. The band toured from 1993 to 2000. Bryan has no political experience (www.rodbryan.com).

For Arkansas, jobs represent a critical aspect of this election. Most Arkansans agree that the state needs to build industry in order to make the state more successful. However, this is not to say that any of the candidates agree on how to increase the number of ‘good’ jobs in the state, but there similarities exist between the agendas. Mike Beebe and the Democrats believe economic development is the most serious problem facing Arkansas today. In the final gubernatorial debate, Beebe spoke about how economic development, jobs, and money are the most serious problems facing Arkansas today. To combat this problem, Beebe believes that Arkansas must balance the efforts to recruit new industry with “aggressive commitment to the development of companies already in the state.” Beebe also says that Arkansas needs not worry about short-term fixes, for example, bidding out Arkansas as cheap labor, but long-term solutions and must create a “pipeline of entrepreneurs, new industries, and skilled workers.” Beebe also believes in an Arkansas that is supported by “industries enhanced with world class research and development” or as Beebe referred to in the debate, industries like alternative fuels (www.mikebeebe.com). The more conservative Asa Hutchinson agrees with Beebe regarding jobs as the most important issue for Arkansans in this election. According to Hutchinson’s Grow Arkansas Plan, eight key principles will improve the economic state of Arkansas. Firstly, Hutchinson believes that investments should be made in workforce education and training, which includes two-year state research and development colleges. Next, the Republican believes that the state education system should be reformed, making “no arbitrary closure of schools.” Hutchinson is also a strong proponent of flexible standards, which he believes will be beneficial to helping schools meet standards. Hutchinson also

believes in the reforming of the state’s tax system, what he calls ‘burdensome.’ Hutchinson mentions often the application of common sense to his issues and believes so to embrace the higher paying of Arkansas’s current economy. To improve the state’s infrastructure, Hutchinson and the Republicans also recommend enhancing the Arkansas’ roads and infrastructure. Like Beebe, Hutchinson, a small business owner, firmly believes in the support of small business and entrepreneurship. Next, Hutchinson proposes the increasing of transparency, accountability, and efficiency to the state government. Eighth, the former congressman proposes to provide executive leadership from the governor regarding job growth and economic development (www.asaforgovernor.org). The liberal Green Party candidate, Jim Lendall, proposes what he calls “economic justice.” Lendall defines this principle as “equal pay for equal work”, believes that a minimum wage increase must be accompanied with a “just tax system”, and has supported such laws in the past (www.jimlendall2006.com). The next major issue on the chopping block, healthcare, has the ability to touch every Arkansan. According to Mike Beebe, almost half a million of Arkansans do not have healthcare coverage, which translates into seventeen percent of the state’s population. One fourth of Arkansan families with a family income less than thirty eight thousand dollars do not have any healthcare. Finally, ten percent of Arkansas’ children are uninsured (www.mikebeebe.com). Beebe identifies Arkansas’ problem as healthcare costs that are too high. Also identified on Beebe’s website is that forty-two percent of private sector firms offer health insurance and one fourth of private sector small business with less than fifty employees

can afford to offer healthcare, compared to forty-three percent nationally. Beebe and the Democrats propose a three-part plan that focuses on affordability, accessibility, and quality. To make healthcare more affordable, Beebe proposes expanding an affordable health insurance option for small businesses and expanding the Arkansas Safety Net Program. Beebe also proposes using a reinsurance program to stabilize and lower the costs of healthcare in the state. Beebe also plans to lower the cost of insurance to make it more affordable by using federal tax credits and wishes to promote the expansion of coverage by building on Medicaid, which includes expanding the coverage of the AR Kids First and the AR Senior Program. The Democratic candidate also proposes instituting a health literacy campaign utilizing preventive medicine, such as breast cancer screenings, which Beebe sees as ways to improve the quality of life and reduce healthcare spending. Beebe also sites that infrastructures, like the UAMS Center on Aging, are already in place and ready to commence such a campaign. Next Beebe also proposes the expansion of school health clinics, an integrated school system, so the federal half of school funding is quadrupled, dramatically increasing the healthcare available to youths, especially those in the AR Kids program. The creation of incentives for primary care professionals to provide service to rural area is the next proposal by the Democratic candidate who also wants to attack Arkansas’ nursing shortage by the establishment of the permanent Nursing Workforce Centre, whose central goal is to ensure that the state has the nursing resources necessary. Beebe also believes in the promotion of telemedicine, the remote diagnosis and treatment by means of telecommunications technology. Beebe and the Democrats are supporters of the use of electronic medicine records, which insure patient control and medical accuracy and to instill these systems,

support policies and incentives that encourage doctors and hospitals to integrate these systems. Finally, for the Beebe platform, the utilization of home and community based care for seniors as an option to nursing homes. To make this feasible, funds would be pooled for families to determine where the patient will receive care, rather than Medicaid regulation (www.mikebeebe.com). Like the plan by Beebe and the Democrats, Hutchinson’s healthcare plan is based on three parts, the reduction of costs, improvement of accessibility and delivery, and driving innovation through technology and reform (www.asaforgovernor.org). To reduce costs, Hutchinson proposes the promotion of personal responsibility in healthcare. Hutchinson wants people to enroll in a pilot program that focuses on the precipitant taking a more active roll in their health by agreeing to participate in health awareness classes, receiving of regular health screenings, improving of living habits, and meeting certain requirements set by a physician. Next, Hutchinson proposes focusing on the reduction in the use of the use and improvement of the state’s meth crisis, an issue Hutchinson takes very seriously after his position in the DEA. The Republican candidate also proposes the office of the Arkansas Surgeon General, a position modeled after Michigan, the first state to begin such a position. Hutchinson also proposes the creation of the “Governor’s Council on Affordable Health Care,” a council whose goal is to evaluate healthcare costs and ways to recommend for improvement (www.asaforgovernor.org). To improve accessibility and delivery of Hutchinson’s healthcare message, he proposes expanding access for small business. This includes promoting awareness of small business health insurance purchasing groups, or as Hutchinson referred to it at the

debate, purchasing alliances. These alliances and the monitoring of the outcomes of the Arkansas Safety Net Program show how the Republican’s intend to expand access for small business. For expansion of access to the rural community, Hutchinson calls for pursuing collaborative efforts between the state and private not for profit organizations and increased use of mobile health clinics (www.asaforgovernor.org). The Hutchinson plan also calls for the driving of innovation through technology, reform, and new thinking. The Republican candidate refers to this as a “health information technology task force.” This task force would specialize in the uses of telemedicine and networked databases, which if you recall, Beebe is also a proponent for. Hutchinson also wants to expand health care savings accounts, or set aside pre tax dollars on expected medical and health care costs. Finally, Hutchinson also wants to increase Arkansas’ medical trauma capability. The Republican says that Arkansas has no trauma centers, which makes it unprepared for a catastrophe, compared to Georgia, which has fifteen trauma centers (www.asaforgovernor.org). Education, probably the most important of all the issues, could affect a candidate more than any other issue because it defines the future. Every campaign makes a point of increasing educational spending to better the issue in the eyes of the voters of Arkansas. Mike Beebe’s plan for action on Education includes the development of universal pre kindergarten education. Mike Beebe also advocates the parent’s involvement in a child’s education by working on partnerships with industry to allow parents to attend their parent teacher conferences. To lead by example, Beebe says that the state government will allow one day paid leave for parents to volunteer in their child’s school. Beebe supports transitions with after school programs and summer programs for all

children. The Democratic nominee also believes in providing statewide technology equality by undertaking an up to date assessment of the technology resources in school. From this, Beebe intends to discover where improvements are needed and how resources are used and from there make a timeline to ensure that every child has access to the information superhighway. Beebe intends on enforcing teacher equality and making options so all rural students can have a 21st century education. To achieve this, Beebe and the Democrats plan to create legislation to encourage traveling teachers and oversee the creation of a pilot program for an alternate pay option for teachers. Beebe plans to attract and retain quality teachers by upgrading the existing mentor models and plans to train teachers in new technology through online curriculum. Finally, Beebe and the Democrats intend to create educational enhancement grants to be used on a need-based form of financial aid for higher education (www.mikebeebe.com). The Republican candidate intends to take a different approach to the improvement of Arkansas education. Hutchinson intends on the creation of the Teacher Support Program: Teacher’s Ongoing Opportunities and Learning Support (TOOLS). This plan will offer multiple career advancement opportunities for teachers in the classroom so that the best teachers can stay in the classroom. The First Teacher’s Foundation: Encouraging and Promoting Parental Involvement is another plan that Hutchinson wishes to commence as well as the Promote Public School Innovation by Expanding Public Charter School Opportunities. This plan would eliminate the cap set on the number of charter schools and ease the financial restrictions for charter schools. Hutchinson also believes that access to voluntary Pre-K education should be open to all who are interested. The final plan introduced by Hutchinson is to preserve education opportunities in rural

Arkansas and the Delta. This plan is set on expanding the distance learning opportunities for every school and sets reasonable standards for public school transportation. In addition, most importantly to Hutchinson, it discourages the closure of local or rural schools (www.asaforgovernor.org). The main predictor of election, polls, are commonly used by both campaigns and the people. According a recent poll conducted by Rasmussen reports on October 15th, Democratic candidate Mike Beebe has a ten-point lead over Republican candidate Asa Hutchinson with fifty percent of the vote. Hutchinson currently is polling at forty percent. The Independent and Green Party candidate are shown as having zero percent of the predicted vote. The October average, taken using three of the most recent polls, shows Beebe at forty nine percent of the vote and Hutchinson at thirty three percent with an average margin of error of approximately four percent. The Independent and Green Party candidates have a combined average of about two percent according to this average (www.uselectionatlas.org). The most accurate way to see how voters respond to Bush and Hutchinson together is to see what Bush’s approval rating in Arkansas, which according to a poll taken on September 19 shows it at thirty four percent and sixty two percent disapproval. At this date, the national average shows Bush’s approval rating at forty two percent and disapproval rating at fifty five percent. What can be gathered from this is that Bush is not popular with the Arkansan voters and that the only use Hutchinson can have for Bush is fundraising (www.surveyusa.com). One week after the above poll was taken, an Arkansas gubernatorial poll was taken and showed Hutchinson trailing Beebe by fifteen

points. Before the Arkansas Bush approval was taken and before Bush came to Arkansas, Hutchinson only trailed by eleven points (www.uselectionatlas.org).