by Max Brantley
I quit too early last night. On the jump, a note from Gerard Matthews, who sat in on a joint appearance by state Senate candidates in Conway Tuesday night.
Big difference: Democratic challenger Joe White supported the state lottery amendment. Sen. Gilbert Baker, the Republican, said he opposed it.
ALSO NOTED: A reader reports the NRA is phone-banking for Baker (from a number outside Baker's district, naturally.)
Sen. Gilbert Baker and his Democratic challenger for the District 30 state senate seat, Joe White, met Wednesday evening at a debate held at UCA. The event was moderated by students and consisted of questions taken from faculty, staff and students from UCA. The first round of questions focused on UCA - enrollment, retention and the recent controversies surrounding the school.
Joe White said the higher education system needs more transparency and the Boards of Trustees at institutions like UCA are ultimately responsible for their own accountability. Baker said the controversy (of which he has been a part as a recipient of favors from the former administration of UCA President Lu Hardin) had been bad for the university. He said that universities needed to simply enforce salary cap laws, and that the Higher Education Coordinating Board needed to have more authority to deal with issues and controversies that crop up at universities.
One of the main points of contention between the two candidates was Lt. Governor Halter's state lottery proposal. When asked about funding for scholarships and education, White said he supported the lottery, which could bring in $100 million a year for college scholarships. Baker said he sided with organizations like Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families that oppose the lottery because of its potentially regressive impact on the poor.
Baker continually referenced working with Gov. Mike Beebe, but White was quick to point out that Baker supported Asa Hutchinson for governor, as well as groups that funded negative attack ads against Beebe. Beebe also has actively campaigned for White.
Both candidates talked about their ties to UCA and their ties to the Conway community. White tried to make the point that he was a businessman, not a politician, and would put the needs of the district first. Baker stressed the need for his re-election, given his seniority and experience.