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Smart Talk, Jan. 21



Expensive Senate race

 It's nothing compared with the U.S. Senate race, but Democratic state Senate candidate Jay Barth, a Hendrix College political science prof, thinks he may have set a fund-raising record in Arkansas already for a state Senate race likely to be decided by the primary election.

He reported raising more than $162,000 in 2009 for his race for District 34, now held by term-limited Sen. Tracy Steele. He said he had more than $100,000 on hand. Barth declared early for the race and he faces opposition from at least one formidable opponent, former legislator (and Hendrix grad) Linda Chesterfield.

Chesterfield's most recent report, back in October, showed she had raised more than $18,000 and had most of it on hand. The race will be interesting. The district is majority black. Barth is white. Chesterfield is black. But some prominent blacks have joined Barth's campaign.

Pimp my ride

The snarky blog Wonkette had some fun last week with a photo of Republican Sen. Kim Hendren's vintage Corvette, decked out with stuck-on letters promoting his candidacy for the U.S. Senate. A note from a reader who sent the photo, taken at the state Capitol, was quoted: “ … He's the one who called Chuck Schumer ‘that Jew.' Just blast a lil' Whitesnake and throw on a tattered jean jacket, and Hendren's set himself up for a steamy night of trailer trash tail (including Blanche Lincoln.)”

The reliably irreverent Wonkette reader commentary took it from there. Example: “Does he have a “Gas, Grass or Ass” sticker on the back? Maybe Calvin peeing on something?”

The fireworks of February

Political junkies have some top-drawer attractions to look forward to in Central Arkansas in February.

At 7 p.m. Feb. 4 at UALR's Center for the Performing Arts, Republican National Chairman Michael Steele and Harold Ford Jr., a former member of Congress and president of the Democratic Leadership Council, will square off in a joint appearance. It's a Black History Month event sponsored by the UALR Office of Campus Life, but it should give a local audience a lively and divergent take on the national political scene. If wits count, odds favor Ford, who's talking about a U.S. Senate bid from New York.

UALR will pay the two men a combined $40,000 for the appearance. It's free, but tickets must be obtained at the Office of Campus Life in the Donaghey Student Center. Call 569-3308 for more info.

The big event is at 6 p.m. Feb. 16 at Verizon Arena. The Republican Party of Arkansas will bring in former vice presidential candidate and “Going Rogue” author Sarah Palin for a $175-a-head party fund-raiser. Who knows what Palin might say. The GOP hasn't said what, if anything, it's paying Palin to appear at the event.

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