by Max Brantley
Lt. Gov. Bill Halter, who announced yesterday by news release but avoided questions until today, filed for U.S. Senate today. I tried to get an advance commitment from spokesman Bud Jackson on 1) card check 2) cap-and-trade 3) health care reform 4) specific controls on Wall Street 5) Halter's preferred committee assignments. He said those answers would come in the fullness of the campaign, but indicated I'd like what I heard today.
I heard a lot of words, but not a lot of riveting specifics.
Gerard Matthews reports that Halter took questions for about 11 minutes, then stopped and walked off, then returned later for more questions. We'll have video in a while.
Halter said 1) on card check. Compromise legislation is in the works, which he hasn’t seen, but which includes elements he favors – accelerated union elections; protection of workers against undue pressure; exemptions for small businesses; 2) health care. He said the words “public option” had come to mean things good and bad on both sides of the debate. He said he had health care ideas – emphasis on preventive medicine, better use of technology to cut costs, for example. Most significantly, he mentioned interest in a program that would allow a voluntary buy-in to Medicare, a voluntary public option of a sort. In a national interview, he readily termed this a public option and said he'd support the reconciliation process -- or a majority vote -- for passage of health legislation.
He defended his support by labor unions, which represent working people, and cited thousands of small contributors in the beginning hours of his campaign by contrast with major corporate PAC contributions. He was non-commital on the cap-and-trade legislation currently before the Senate. (Brummett blogs more here on his greenish answer and his more important volunteered statement -- unlike Blanche Lincoln, Halter said, he'd direct tax help to the middle class, not in a reduction of the estate tax.)
By the way: Liberal commentators are throwing around big numbers regards the money that will supposedly pour into the Halter campaign from progressive sources. No verification of that yet. It's a double-edged sword, but Lincoln isn't well positioned to wield it against Halter given her own national money-raising resume. Labor unions tell Talking Points Memo they're prepared to spend $3 million to beat Lincoln, who once supported them on card check then went wobbly.
ON THE AIR: Halter hits TV tonight, with football in hand on the NLR gridiron and a return appearance of his old Catholic High football coach. It's slick.
PS -- Where's Lincoln's TV? Is it possible she squirreled away too much in the form of general election contributions and not enough for the primary, where Halter can count almost $4 million from labor and Moveon.org?
UPDATE: Lincoln campaign says the senator has raised $5.6 million out of $7 million for the primary campaign, with about half of her 4,635 contributors from in-state. No answer to my question of when she'll hit TV.