Columns » Max Brantley

Pulling the lever

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Readers have asked about the relatively small number of election endorsements in the Times, not to mention some specific choices. The short explanation is that institutional endorsements, as consensus judgments of different people, aren’t always easily reached.

But I still have to vote. And I can’t recall a year where so many races require undecided voters to make decisions among candidates with small name recognition or only the smallest of philosophical differences.

But you gotta decide. Thus the importance of campaign advertising (and money for same). Of personal contact. Of the opinions of other people. Of singular issues important to individual voters, if not necessarily to the candidate herself. In no particular order, here are some decision-makers for me. Shoot this old gray head if you must.

Wendell Griffen will get my vote for Supreme Court, despite a highly qualified opponent, Paul Danielson. Why? Because Arkansas is past due to elect a black Supreme Court justice; because he’s contributed some common-sense legal landmarks in his time on the Appeals Court, and also because I detest the way Griffen has been singled out for punishment for exercising his First Amendment rights.

Bill Halter will get my vote for lieutenant governor on account of sheer intellect, solid TV ads and the demerits of at least two of his opponents. His is not an easy manner or story, however, and that could spell trouble in the fall.

The race for attorney general is toughest of all. Each Democrat merits serious consideration. I have three friends to whom I look for guidance on other lawyers, each of sound judgment and intelligence. Each is supporting a different candidate in this race. One candidate, Dustin McDaniel, had the moxie to unequivocally indicate he was pro-choice. It was almost enough to tip my decision in his favor, but for the little legislative matter known as tax increment finance. Paul Suskie is an impressive guy with a thoughtful view of the office’s function. But contrary to my earlier leanings, influenced by a lawyer who invariably sees things through the same political prism that I use, I’m voting for Robert Herzfeld. I’m influenced by his successful drive to force Gov. Mike Huckabee to improve his pardon practices; his dead-on opposition to the tax increment finance law, and his loud support for a no-freebies ethics rule for elected officials.

For state treasurer, I’ll vote for Martha Shoffner, a former legislator. We need more women in public life. We also need fewer politicians, like her opponent Mac Campbell, intent on serving billionaires first. If Campbell so ardently supports giving the 18 richest families in America repeal of the estate tax, how else will he serve them to the detriment of everyone else?

To the opinions of others and single-issue factors, add the personal. The Times has written that the uncommon qualifications of the four candidates for House District 37 make each a safe vote. Hard as that decision still might be for others, it’s easy for me. Kathy Webb has been a friend and political fellow traveler since I came to town 33 years ago, when I bonded with anyone transfixed by the Watergate scandal. She’ll be getting my vote.




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