Sunday, May 16, 2010

Your last chance

Tuesday is primary day, and we have some hotly contested seats here in Arkansas. The biggest race is the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Blanche Lincoln. She has a fierce challenger in the Democratic primary: Bill Halter, currently the Lieutenant Governor.

I definitely need some help in this race. I'm registered Democratic and intend to vote in the primary, as does Noel. I'm disinclined to vote strategically -- that is, to vote for the candidate I think has the best shot to win the general election in November -- because I think the situation could be entirely different by then, and the mood of the electorate unpredictable.

So I'm choosing between these two candidates based on their merits. I'd like nothing better than to vote for a genuine progressive. National interest groups are trying position Bill Halter as that candidate. But the man has no voting record, having been a bureaucrat up until winning the Lieutenant Governor position in 2008. And he won that based solely on his pro-lottery platform -- a platform I deplore with a white-hot hatred. There's no way to tell what his positions will be once elected, as far as I can tell. There is an easy way to see what he's foisted on this state almost single-handedly: a state-sponsored crapshoot to fund scholarships for which there is no political will as an honest entitlement, spawning a bloated and overpaid bureaucracy that holds the legislature hostage by clucking its tongues over the poor students who will go without their $5000 a year unless the lawmakers give them everything they want, resulting in a depressingly few years (I confidently predict) in a plateau of revenue and corresponding hysterical pro-gambling propaganda lest the scholarships be reduced.

Lincoln, on the other hand, has a wishy-washy record in support of the Obama agenda, and played an annoyingly obstructionist role in the health care reform process over the last year. But she's a veteran, has seniority and the corresponding committee power, and has been endorsed by both Obama and Bill Clinton here in the waning days of the race.

The debates and the ad campaigns have been ugly on both sides. Lincoln came out in favor of massive exemptions to the estate tax in the latest debate (ugh), but Halter has consistently portraying her as a tool of health insurance interests (almost certainly untrue).

So I'm asking for help from my Democratic buddies, especially those of you in Arkansas. (If you have no recommendations for this race except "Go GOP in November!", I will take your comments as read.) Is there any good reason to choose Halter? Are there merits I have overlooked that don't have to do with predicting the race six months from now? Or is the anti-Lincoln case so strong that it doesn't matter whether Halter has anything going for him at all -- is "anyone but Lincoln" really a defensible position?

My vote hangs in the balance. I await your arguments.

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