by Max Brantley
A Searcy Daily Citizen columnist makes sport of Jim Lagrone's claim that it was an honest miscommunication that led his campaign to say repeatedly that his son was in Iraq (rather than Mississippi) when he supposedly tried without success to cast an absentee ballot. Though the ballot was sent to Lagrone, one never was returned. Whether that's the fault of the mail or Lagrone's son is anyone's guess. There's no question that Secretary of State Charlie Daniels, Lagrone's opponent, had nothing to do with it. After abjectly apologizing for his mistake (only after it was caught by the Democrat-Gazette) Lagrone went straight back out on the campaign trail and started blaming Daniels again. The point of the Searcy column is that, despite his protests, Lagrone himself told the Iraqi tale at a Searcy political rally. Miscommunicated with himself, I guess.
We also got this letter from John Edwards, who's served in Iraq, on the issue of Daniels' work to help voters overseas cast ballots:
Secretary of State Charlie Daniels, in my opinion, was not AWOL when it came to a protecting the rights of service emembers to vote. When it came to the soldiers of the 39th Infantry Brigade of the Arkansas Army National Guard serving in Iraq, Charlie Daniels made himself available and granted every request that our unit made of him. I was there, and I know.
I contacted Jim Lagrone, his Republican opponent, by e-mail on Aug. 15 after I heard Jim's charge of AWOL against Charlie. I told him that Charlie had done everything that could have been expected given the challenges Arkansas faced due to the Nader lawsuit. One of the offers I made to Jim was that he was welcome to any of my e-mails to Charlie Daniels and his staff, and the responses that I received, as we all worked to make sure our soldiers had the opportunity to vote. I believe in our Freedom of Information Act and everything on this matter is, of course, unclassified. I think that anyone who viewed these e-mails would see that any charge of AWOL against Charlie Daniels is baseless.
When I spoke with Matt Lagrone last week, I told him I appreciated his service to our nation. I asked him if he would tell me about his voting experience. This is when I first learned that he was in Mississippi, and that he had received his ballot two days before the election. I told Matt that I could not know why his vote did not get counted, but I did not believe it was Charlie Daniels’ fault.
Another thing I told Matt was that voting assistance officers are very important to the process of protecting the rights of service members to vote. Each unit in the military is supposed to have an officer that is assigned to this task to insure service emembers get to vote. For the 39th, it was Maj. Travis Mann, who I worked with a great deal. Getting ballots distributed, and voting in Iraq was not easy. We all had a lot to do. But I feel everyone in Arkansas did their level best to help us vote, especially Charlie Daniels.