Live ... from Jonesboro ... | Arkansas Blog

Live ... from Jonesboro ...

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... it's the gubernatorial debate

The promised 6:50 link activiation by KAIT-TV did not happen. OK, it's on at 6:54

Oops, the moderator, Diana Davis, described the candidates, Democrat Mike Beebe and Republican A$a Hutchinson, as THE candidates hoping to be the next governor. No word about where the other two -- Jim Lendall and Rod Bryan -- are tonight. UPDATE: Davis says neither has "enough support" to join the debate tonight. They did a little talking outside the hall at ASU.

And now we've lost the signal. Server slammed by people trying to watch? We'll see. Now it's back -- going to be long night? (UPDATE: that was the last glitch.)

A$A goes first: Cheers NE Ark. troops, cites farm background, talks about values, calls for four-lane to Jonesboro, defends his national record. Tight if not so bright.

Beebe: Thanks his wife Ginger. Running out of "affection," because he loves Arkansas, and frustration. Cites working mom, his blessedeness, etc. Frustrated by people who "trash our state without justification." Might he be thinking of Republicans? Invokes: Biofuels. Expand health care. Vision. Leadership. Experience. Tight if not so bright.

Questions:

Loss of manfacturing jobs: A$A supports tax cuts and incentives for big business and farmers. Beebe proposes corporate welfare, too, and lots of it. The rest of us will be trickled on someday. A$a will lay some research dollars on universities. Beebe notes he's already delivered research pork to ASU bigtime.

Attracting more technology jobs: Beebe promises Japanese automakers a blank check (including by-the-drink sake in Jonesboro?), throws in big words like nanotechnology. Hutchinson does the vision thing, looking to other industries beyond auto assembly, which is so yesterday in the South (if not yet today here). But, of course, he says we must also cut business taxes. The rest of you will be trickled on eventually. Beebe takes credit for leading the way on a food sales tax cut and notes, correctly, that A$a said originally that was not on his agenda.

NEWS BREAKS OUT: Two protesters start shouting. It sounds like "let us speak" at 7:22 p.m. (Turns out to be "Let Rod Debate!") KAIT stupidly cuts to commercials while the protesters are escorted from the building. This is a news station? In a minute or so order is restored so that A$a can resume explaining how he's totally converted to being a food tax warrior and says it can be cut completely without a worry for replacement money, the state is so flush. Right.

"I know what it's like to put your pennies together," says coporate lobbyist A$a, who hopes to reap millions from a penny stock scam to which he has contributed only his presumed insider influence on the Bush administration

Why not cut property taxes? Cutting the food tax is enough says A$a. Hoo boy, Beebe is ready. Says there's money on hand for an additional homestead tax exemption and reminds he authored a constitutional amendment that set up that exemption. Then Beebe takes A$a to school on budgeting (one-time dollars, recurring obligations, etc.) and the needs for education, Medicaid and keeping rapists and burglars locked up in prison. Sales tax cut "may have to be phased in, but it has to be done with growth." A$a bangs his head against the wall. Cut the tax completely, damn the consequences, he says. We can afford it, he says with Bushian faith-based fervor. And now he's reciting the Beebe record on legislative tax votes.

Beebe wins the Reagan soundalike contest. "There you go again," he says. "When you start cutting all this money you better make sure you're not cutting education or letting rapists and robbers out."

Lottery instead of taxes: Beebe firmly endorses the people's right to vote on it (thanks, Mike) and supports a "clean amendment" on it for them to consider. Opposed to casinos, he said he's "a little more open-minded" on lotteries, which he said would not be a panacea. A$a  also opposes expansion of casino gambling and said he's opposed to a lottery. But enough of gambling, he wants to get back to Beebe's failure to repeal the grocery tax during 20 years in the Senate. I think we'll hear this again tonight.

Oops. Beebe notes that the Senate three times voted to repeal the grocery tax while he served there. And notes that A$a wasn't registered to vote in Arkansas the last time the debate arose (when Beebe opposed an outright repeal that would have wrecked state government because there was no surplus and insufficient funds for state needs). A$a says Beebe is demeaning his public service by bringing up his carpetbaggery. And he brings in the troops one more time for good measure.

.....tuning out on more debt and bond questions ...

Illegal immigrants: Coming from a Homeland Security job, A$a doesn't exactly speak with great credibility here. But he promises, by God, that the state of Arkansas will not hire wetbacks (my word choice for irony purposes, not his) and he'll enforce the law against others who do. Beebe, for the second time tonight, drags out the governor's ability to use a "bully pulpit" to influence changes at the federal level and makes sure it "steps up to its responsibilities to be the primary guardian of our borders." A$a, as you might guess, isn't too happy about the federal government being blamed for failures in controlling illegal immigration. A$a promises to put the State Police to work busting illegal groundskeepers at the country club. Ask a state cop about this idea some time.

Terrorism: who knew it was about meth labs and cold pills? zzzzz

AND IN CONCLUSION ....

Beebe starts with kind words for A$a, but he argues that he has the abiliity to cooperate with legislators and county officials (no need to say that they're nearly all Democratic) to get things done. He intones that the governor is merely temporarily renting the chair from the people of Arkansas. He closes by asking viewers for their votes. All feel good stuff.

A$a likewise compliments Beebe, including for his "vigorness." But he gets more specific. He's the vision guy and the belief guy -- limited government, lower taxation, values. The NRA and Right to Life are with him. Beebe is a taxer. A$a brings up rural schools and busing.

 

Instant analysis: Both were able. Beebe did better than I expected, frankly, and was warmer. A$a seemed a touch whiny -- but maybe aggressive would be the better word.  He's the challenger and Beebe the incumbent, even though he's not, and the debate had that feel.

 

 

 

 

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