The election is 19 days away but in Arkansas the result of the U.S. Senate race is already apparent. Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D), the Chairman of the Agriculture Committee, will be defeated in her bid for re-election by Rep. John Boozman (R).
The only question is whether Lincoln will endure the largest defeat of any Senate incumbent who has ever sought re-election. The record is now held by Sen. George McGovern (D-SD) who received only 39% of the vote when he was shot down in 1980.
Congressman John Boozman (R)
Boozman’s lead has been altering between 20% and 30%, but several pundits are saying the final margin will be closer to 10%. The Congressman has been on Capitol Hill for a decade and his 2009 rating from the American Conservative Union (ACU) is 96%. The same ACU rating gave Senator Mark Pryor 8%, Sen. Lincoln 24%, and Rep. Vic Snyder (D) 4%. Boozman has excellent ratings from every conservative organization, and the race presents voters with a clear contrast.
Senator Blanche Lincoln (D)
Despite the bleak outlook, the Senator continues to vigorously defend her voting record. The first Senatorial debate was notable for the attention it gave to Congressional spending earmarks, which Lincoln strongly favors. The Senator defended the $862 billion stimulus and said increased taxes will be needed to balance the budget.
Nevertheless she claims to be a moderate. Former President Bill Clinton campaigned for Lincoln yesterday and is featured in her most recent TV ad. Clinton also had an instrumental role in her primary victory which she was able to survive despite a $10 million TV ad onslaught financed by labor unions and liberal organizations.
Lincoln says she is an independent voice who is “in the center of the Senate.” She emphasizes her opposition to the Democratic Caucus on issues such as the cap and trade national energy tax, EPA rules and the estate tax.
Health Care Reform
Senator Lincoln was the deciding vote in favor of President Obama’s health care initiative, which she describes as “a good start.” Health care was a prominent topic during last night’s second and final debate at the University of Central Arkansas which was broadcast live on public television.
Rep. Boozman said the Senator “is very proud of being the prevailing voice on passing Obamacare. I want to go to the Senate and be the repealing voice. . . There’s absolutely nothing in this bill that controls costs, and you’re seeing them escalate tremendously now”.
The debate also included Green Party nominee John Gray, and independent Trevor Drown who claims to be the only “true conservative” in the race. Surprisingly, Drown aimed much of his criticism at Rep. Boozman rather than Sen. Lincoln. He said it was wrong of the Congressman to refer to the National Health Care Plan by using the derogatory term “ObamaCare”:
“I do not agree with this president and his policies, but he is the president of the United States. We lead by example. If we’re willing to be unprofessional and refer to it as ‘Obamacare’ … then it is time to revisit who we want to send to Washington.” He went on to say that both “Republicans and Democrats have run the economy into the ground.”
Why Would Conservatives Abandon Boozman?
Trevor Drown of Russellville has been receiving between 4 and 5 percent of the vote in several polls. I spoke to key activists in the Arkansas Republican Party about Drown’s appeal and was repeatedly told:
Why would anyone think Boozman was not a conservative, and why would they foolishly throw away their vote on Drown? A vote for Trevor Drown is a vote for the liberal Democrats. A conservative who votes for Trevor Drown is just making it more difficult for the Republican candidate to win.
Drown will not have a significant impact on this year’s race because of Boozman’s large lead. However, he could have been the deciding factor in a close race. If Lincoln had been a strong candidate, Drown could have provided her victory margin. Third party and independent candidates such as Drown have already defeated GOP Senators Norm Coleman (MN), Gordon Smith (OR) and Slade Gorton (WA). They also cost the GOP the governorship of Washington, and gave two states (Indiana and North Carolina) to Obama.
They allowed Democrats to have a super majority in the U.S. Senate, and they denied the GOP the one vote they needed to stop ObamaCare. President Obama will receive a major boost in 2012 if he is able to carry North Carolina and Indiana. Conservatives who ran as third party candidates in both states were able to receive just one and two percent of the vote. That was enough to provide Obama’s victory margin. A third party or an independent candidate can not win, but they can provide the margin of victory for liberals.
Who Is Trevor Drown?
Drown, 40, claims to be “the only conservative in the race”. He announced his candidacy on December 9, and for several months described himself as “Arkansas’ Tea Party Candidate.” Now he has lost the backing of several major Tea Party groups, and is no longer using that description. Drown was not allowed to address the recent large gathering of the Ozark Tea Party in Mountain Home, while Boozman was one of the principle speakers. Drown began his campaign by saying:
For far too long the people of Arkansas have allowed themselves to be held hostage by the two party political system. These politicians do not listen to the people. They bow to special interest groups and stay lock-step with their party’s agenda. Republican or Democrat, there is no difference between the two. . . The Republican party has not shown me any reason to be part of them. In Arkansas, they clearly do not represent the conservative voice and across the nation they have strayed from their core beliefs. I will not be a part of any organization that has a situational ethics and leadership problem.
Nine months after announcing his candidacy Drown had raised less than $30,000, while Senator Lincoln had brought in over $11 million. Drown says he does not have a voting record to defend so he “does not need a lot of money.” He has been a UPS delivery driver for 22 years and attended Arkansas Tech University. Drown spent 18-years in the National Guard as a sergeant, and in 2006 he was deployed with the Special Forces in Afghanistan.
Even though he has spoken at many Tea Party events he now criticizes the movement for being “hijacked by the Republican Party.” He said he was not interested in running as a Republican because “the party has left behind the values of Ronald Reagan” and has moved increasingly toward “sticking its nose in states’ business.”
The Danger of Third Parties and Independent Candidates
Third party or independent conservative candidates continue to be a danger to the GOP, and they appear to have momentum in this year of the Tea Party. To try and understand their motivation, I have spoke to many of their supporters, and read material distributed by others. I always asked them why they would endanger the conservative cause by splitting the vote and allowing a liberal Democrat to win. After considerable research I believe a liberal victory does not bother them.
Their real goal is to harm the Republican Party. The sales pitch for supporting Drown is that he is a “Constitutional conservative” while they claim Boozman wants to “increase the size of government, pass unconstitutional laws and usurp state’s rights.” Their primary “evidence” is that Boozman supported TARP and the Patriot Act.
TARP saved the banking system, pensions and annuities. It also saved the American economy from another Great Depression, and in the end it will not have cost the taxpayers anything. The Patriot Act has been highly successful in stopping terrorist attacks and none of the claims by its opponents are true. Even when a massive amount of information regarding TARP and the Patriot Act is presented to the Drown supporters, it fails to have any impact on their viewpoint.
They call Congressman Boozman the lesser of two evils, but will not support him. When told a third party or independent candidate is just splitting the conservative vote, they respond by saying this is a stale and tired argument.
Third parties have been short-lived in American history. The issues they raise are quickly taken over by one of the major parties, and with no unique issues their voter support is soon depleted. Third parties have never made a significant bid for control of either the House of Representatives or the Senate. In fact, only a handful of individuals from outside one of the two major parties have served in the Congress. Supporters of third parties are wasting their time battling a system and not winning or changing policy.
The Trevor Drown Supporters
It is frustrating to talk to Trevor Drown supporters because they often ignore logic. They try to boost Drown’s candidacy by falsely claiming 92% of Arkansas voters are registered independents. The truth is that you can not register as an independent in the state. Most voters don’t register a party affiliation, and it’s not required to participate in a primary. Voters simply select the ballot of the party they desire on primary day.
- The most active and articulate Drown advocate is Roy Fleshman. He is a California resident but has roots in Russellville, Arkansas. Fleshman, 50, is a retired Staff Sergeant in the U.S. Army. He is an adviser to the Trevor Drown campaign and is also one of the candidate’s best friends. They served together in the military.
Fleshman was angry when General David Petraeus advised a Florida minister to cancel a Koran burning ceremony. Fleshman didn’t care if it “pisses off a lot of people in Afghanistan,” which he refers to as a “pissant country,” and says “pass me a torch.” Very few of Fleshman’s claims are true, but to understand the motivation of the radical right they should be repeated.
- Fleshman is against the Republican Party because of its “lack of leadership, corruption, incompetence and lack of cohesion. . . The country is rapidly going downhill. I see it. You see it. You can blame 150 years of two party political incompetence and mismanagement. The independent movement across the country is growing. People are so tired of the two party system which got us into the mess. They have become the OGP, the One Government Party. So many of us want to see other parties and independents in office. . . The Republican and Democratic candidates in the Senate race are both members of the One Big Government Party.”
“As it stands now, Democrats and Republicans are running full-speed towards the cliff all in the name of power and control. It is time for independent leaders who will represent the people, not some ideology that is easily compromised or a corporate interest which buys politicians for a few bucks. . . The Republican Party doesn’t represent me, and it hasn’t for years.”
- He wants conservatives to oppose Boozman because the Congressman voted for TARP, the Patriot Act and five different free trade agreements. He says Boozman “is a follower and not a leader. He is a Republican in Name Only (RINO). . . His votes for big government spending programs have sold your grandchildren into state sponsored slavery. . . Do me a favor if you are in Arkansas and are supporting John Boozman, the Republican Congressman who voted for TARP and is now running for the U.S. Senate. If you claim to be a conservative you should just change that to RINO. If you think our problems are solved by replacing Lincoln with Boozman, than you have no conservative principles.”
Other viewpoints from Trevor Drown supporters include:
- Bob Makara of Cabot, Arkansas who says Boozman “got us into this mess by voting for TARP. He sticks with the party agenda 92% of the time.”
- Paul L. Teague is originally from Grubbs, Arkansas and this year was finance director for an independent congressional candidate in Tennessee. He is against Boozman because he has not called for the impeachment of President Obama or “the indictment of Bush for tyranny.” He says we can not have any “false non-citizen Presidents, no more false wars to deplete our money.” He says the GOP is losing to “Republican Libertarians like Rand Paul because we are fed up!”
- William Franks of Little Rock: “I’m sorry, but John Boozman is a RINO. He supported George W. Bush on just about every big spending item that fell before his eyes. Only now has he ‘seen the light.’ But not really. I wish we had a better Republican, a constitutional conservative one, and not the RINO Boozman.”
- David Pangrac describes himself as an Arkansas Libertarian who is supporting Drown as the most electable candidate. On May 20, 2010 he said “Boozman can’t win. Boozman can’t beat Lincoln or Lt. Gov. Bill Halter. You’re fooling yourself if you think he can. It’s going to take a Washington outsider whom people can respect to take this election.”
of Fort Smith: “I predict a large amount of both Democrats AND Republicans will vote for Trevor. I (and most of the people I work with) am tired of party politics.”