Columns » John Brummett

Smelly politics

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They're talking excrement in the Democratic runoff for Congress from the 1st District.

That is not a metaphor, though it well could be.

Tim Wooldridge, gay-bashing Republican and public lobbyist seeking this nominally Democratic nomination, tells the Paragould newspaper that he's best qualified because he, unlike his runoff opponent, is married, has kids and has changed diapers.

That opponent, Chad Causey, did not respond. But his campaign director did — this being a common tactic these days, like campaign manager Steve Patterson saying all the harsh stuff for Blanche Lincoln so she can concentrate on trying to remember whether she's supposed to be for or against Barack Obama.

Evidently seeking to elevate the public dialogue, the Causey surrogate put out a statement to this effect: "Chad was raised by a single mother who worked two and three jobs and had a much younger brother whose diapers he helped change growing up. This line of attack sure smells disingenuous at best, and of the stuff contained by dirty diapers at worst."

I'm wond-ering if the real winner in that exchange isn't the Republican nominee for Congress over there, the farm radio guy named Rick Crawford.

For the time being, though, the advantage ought to go to Causey, former chief of staff to Marion Berry, simply because he isn't the syrupy blowhard and trivialist that Wooldridge is.

Here's the essence of Wooldridge's campaign: He is a devout member of the Church of Christ, a fundamentalist religion where the members tend to stick together politically and which has a strong presence in this economically populist, culturally conservative and nominally Democratic region.

I can say that because I was brought up in this denomination. We were told we were the only ones going to heaven. Sometimes on a Sunday before an election the man making the announcements would remind us there'd be voting on Tuesday and that so-and-so was "a member of the church."

Wooldridge's message is that his daddy knows how to fix a carburetor in an old pickup and that he himself is a pure Arkansas old boy who drives a tractor instead of a fancy car and wears work clothes instead of a tuxedo.

When pressed on an issue, he'll inevitably spout some conservative superficiality and banality, such as that employers ought to be able to fire gay people just for being gay because being gay is a behavioral choice and a sin.

Now he wants to say he's the better choice in this runoff because he is married and Causey, a much-younger man who was engaged to be wed the last time I talked with him, isn't.

By the way, just so you know: As a young state representative, Wooldridge put in a bill to reinstate public hangings.

A thing like that bears reminding.

Four years ago, Wooldridge thought he would parlay this kind of hokum into the lieutenant governorship, at which point he'd be in line to infest the Governor's Mansion after Mike Beebe. But that outsider rascal Bill Halter messed that up, spending $1 million or so to buy that office and foil Wooldridge's best-laid plans.

At that point, Wooldridge somehow talked state college presidents into hiring him as their lobbyist for the association they were forming. So he's hung out in Little Rock trying to tap more of your tax money for higher education.

All of that is simply to say that history is perhaps in the making. The 1st District hasn't been represented in Congress by a Republican since Reconstruction. But now it has two chances in three remaining candidates.

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