by Max Brantley
Sen. Gilbert Baker of Conway, the former state Republican chair who expects strong Democratic oppositioni n 2008, is in a fund-raising fury. He filed his first campaign report today, showing he raised a whopping $154,000 in June to start the election cycle, an amount he claims as a one-month record. If he has no primary opposition, he can hit up this same group and double the money he'll have to face a Democratic challenge in November 2008.
Baker, a member of the Senate ruling Brotherhood, naturally was richly rewarded by special interest lobbyists. A scan of just the first page of contributors alone turns up the highway contractors' PAC, the Alltel PAC, insurance lobbyist Ark Monroe and the forest products lobby.
But he also tapped a rich vein of support in his hometown region, with money from many Conway residents, including UCA President Lu Hardin. A news release boasts of money Baker received thanks to a party thrown at the chicken industry's headquarters by Democratic Sens. Jack Critcher and Bob Johnson, the outgoing and incoming president pro tems. "It was especially gratifying to have my colleagues in the state Senate show their support. Working across party lines is incredibly important in the legislature." (It wouldn't appear that either senator actually gave Baker any money. They merely traded their influence with the lobby, which will be beneficial all around, you may be sure.)
Joe White of Conway is planning to challenge Baker from the Democratic side.