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A great debate

Little Rock's choice

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Sen. Blanche Lincoln and Rep. John Boozman debated Friday at the Peabody Hotel and the meeting illustrated sharp differences.

Senator Lincoln defended her vote on health care reform legislation. It produced insurance reform; it shored up Medicare; it provided relief for community hospitals; it protects the smallest businesses; it extends coverage to people in need. Dr. No Boozman said fervently that he hopes he can cast the deciding vote to repeal this modest step to catch up with the rest of western civilization.

Lincoln said we need look no farther than the market crash to see the error in privatizing any portion of Social Security, a cause Boozman has championed. She warned, too, against the 30 percent national sales tax he sponsors. It would cripple the working class while providing a bonanza to plutocrats. He demonstrated ignorance of the enormous bureaucracy necessary to collect and enforce such a tax in place of the income tax.

Lincoln also noted Boozman's opposition to women's dominion over their own bodies. Boozman claimed not to remember his vote against an amendment proposed to an abortion bill to build protections for incest victims who seek abortions in another state. Was Boozman that heartless? Or just that inattentive? Neither is a recommendation.

Boozman wants to cut rich people's taxes and cut government spending. Blanche Lincoln offers comfort to the wealthy at times, too. But she has a warmer heart for continuing federal support for poor states like Arkansas, an effort in which Boozman has been AWOL.

Angry voters are supposedly poised to turn out Democrats because they want change. Boozman is evidence, if only voters were listening to debates such as this one, to be careful what you wish for.

Some voters in the Little Rock School District have a contested election to consider next week pitting incumbent Ward 2 School Board member Micheal Daugherty against Michael Nellums, a high school principal in the neighboring Pulaski County School District. It comes down to this: Daugherty is a vote for the status quo and Superintendent Linda Watson's uneven leadership. Nellums says carefully that he'd have to become better informed as a Board member before committing on Watson's future, but his record, particularly in a recent stint as a Jacksonville middle school principal, is that of a change-maker with a fierce focus on students. More of the same or change? That is the question.

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