Columns » Max Brantley

Scary election

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I write my final column before election day on Halloween, appropriate given the terrifying outlook.

Might we wake up Nov. 9 to find ourselves a bit more than two months from a reality TV presidency?

Another scary thought: Were the decision left to Arkansas voters, the answer would be yes.

The philosophical inclination of Arkansas voters means the prospects down the ballot are just about as discouraging. It is hard, for example, to find a Democrat who doesn't believe the party's legislative minority won't be eroded further this session.

Democrats fielded fewer candidates but they have several good ones battling the red tide. You couldn't find a more competent public servant, for example, than Susan Inman, the retired elections supervisor, who's trying to win a House seat in West Little Rock. She faces a tea party Republican, Jim Sorvillo, who's donned a moderate disguise this election season because his part of town still has moderate voters. He declines to reveal his presidential choice, though his record is Trumpian. He must be careful. The same area he seeks to represent has continued to elect a hard-working Democrat, Kathy Lewison, to the Quorum Court, the county governing body. A Republican, running in tandem with Sorvillo, is trying again to unseat Lewison.

Democrats seem to be making some headway with issues — specifically expansion of pre-K education. Up in Jonesboro, Republican Rep. Brandt Smith announced his support for pre-K education on his Facebook page. This followed an astonishing debate performance with Democrat Nate Looney in which Smith said young children should stay home with their families and that expanding pre-K was typical wasteful Democratic spending. Another Republican, Rep. DeAnn Vaught, also bought newspaper advertising touting her love of pre-K. More rank hypocrisy. The Arkansas Republican Party intentionally removed support for pre-K from its party platform because of philosophical opposition.

There'll be no gains for Democrats in Congress. Only one member of Congress drew a Democratic opponent, Dianne Curry's low-profile challenge to incumbent Republican Rep. French Hill in the 2nd District.

The big news will be issues, though most of the big news has already occurred. Two ballot measures — one for more casinos and another to limit damages against nursing homes for patient abuse — were removed by the Arkansas Supreme Court for flaws in the ballot title. For that, you can thank Attorney General Leslie Rutledge for dropping the ball on adequate vetting of the ballot titles. The court also dumped an initiated medical marijuana act by disqualifying petition signatures that Secretary of State Mark Martin and a special master had found were valid. The court reinforced an earlier bad decision that the new petition canvassing rules did not unduly infringe on clear constitutional language AGAINST restricting the people's power to petition. I'll be voting for the medical marijuana amendment, Issue 6, and I hope all do, even those who preferred Issue 7.

If only the Supreme Court would be tougher on legislatively referred constitutional amendments. We have three this year and one, Issue 3, is another Trojan horse. Styled an "economic development" measure, it's simply unlimited corporate welfare. It allows unlimited city, county and state bonded debt to provide freebies to private businesses. The Koch lobby — right for once — says that it allows governors to picks winners and losers for handouts, and they should know when they opine on how the system can be politically manipulated. Worse still is the amendment's explicit authorization of taxpayer subsidies for local chambers of commerce. The money is used less for tangible economic development than it is to lobby for the corporate political agenda — tax breaks for the rich, a cruel workers comp law, opposition to health care and other people-friendly programs such as environmental protection. In Little Rock, the chamber led the state takeover of the Little Rock School District.

Corporate lobbyists want handouts and they've also thrown in with Governor Hutchinson's irrational war against putting medical marijuana in the hands of people it could comfort. That alone is reason enough to VOTE NO ON ISSUE 3.

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