You were probably too busy enjoying Arkansas’s one day of spring over the weekend to notice, but former Congressman Mike Ross “won” the endorsement of the Arkansas Education Association in his bid for governor. This endorsement led to a kerfuffle between Ross and Republican candidate Asa Hutchinson. Let me bring you up to speed.
As news leaked of Ross’s AEA endorsement, the Hutchinson camp issued a statement saying Ross is “out of touch with Arkansas,” drawing a connection between the AEA and the very liberal National Education Association. Here’s a snippet of the Hutchinson statement:
This union endorsement is another example that Congressman Ross pretends to be an independent in Arkansas but given the chance will side with his liberal friends. In this case he has joined with the national teachers unions who put their liberal ideals ahead of our kids.
Hutchinson’s remarks prompted a Ross response during his endorsement announcement ceremony (kudos to Team Asa! for knocking Ross off message). You see, Ross claimed Hutchinson also applied for the group’s seal of approval and was just being a sore loser, or something. He also demanded an apology from Hutchinson, saying Hutchinson had insulted Arkansas teachers (*gasp*). It was a whole thing. Here are some of Ross’s thoughtful remarks:
Asa Hutchinson has already put out a statement blasting these teachers and education support professionals behind me. What Asa fails to mention in his statement is that he came to Little Rock, he sat in that room over there, and he interviewed and asked these teachers for their endorsement. And, after he didn’t get it, here’s what he now says: he says these teachers are nothing more than union bosses and that they remind him of Pelosi & Obama. Look it up.
I took Ross’s advice and “looked it up.” I found no such attack on Arkansas teachers anywhere in Hutchinson’s statement. Instead, I only found harsh things Asa said about liberal teacher unions and liberal politicians — like Mike Ross. For example, Hutchinson said that Ross “pretends to be an independent,” Ross worked to take away workers’ freedom and secret ballot, and “Arkansas deserves better than Congressman Ross putting the interests of Nancy Pelosi, President Obama, and the union bosses ahead of Arkansas workers.” Using my unparalleled fact-checking credentials, I rate these claims as “true,” “completely true,” and “100% true.” (Maybe Mike Ross has a different, secret version of the Hutchinson statement?)
Look, the idea that blasting a liberal union is the same thing as attacking teachers is just ludicrous. It’d be like saying someone who hates the Yankees hates baseball (and is therefore, obviously, a Communist). Or, more specifically, that someone who doesn’t like the MLB player’s union is anti-baseball, anti-apple pie, and anti-American.
Furthermore, when Ross says Hutchinson “interviewed and asked these teachers for their endorsement,” he’s kidding…right? Hutchinson — and Ross — sat down with union leaders, not teachers, and interviewed for their endorsement. For Ross to pretend anything different is shallow and petty; to equate teachers with teacher unions is just foolish. Are some teachers members of the union? Of course. But does Mike Ross really believe the AEA represents the views of 100% of their members? I know several Arkansas teachers who would vehemently challenge that notion. In fact, the AEA only represents roughly 31% of Arkansas teachers (around 12,000 members, according to the Ross statement, out of Arkansas’s 39,000 public school teachers). Gosh, he really has been in Washington wayyyy too long.
And one more thing: as for this idea that Asa’s interview with the AEA gives Ross cover for actually earning their approval, I’ll just say that listening to people is pretty much the least you can do whenever you’re a political candidate. (As my neighbor used to say, “No, really, that’s the least you can do.”) It’s prudent for anyone who wants to be governor to listen to the concerns and viewpoints of all Arkansans, even if they disagree with their ideas. I’m not sure why “middle-of-the-road” Mike Ross thinks this is a bad thing.
I will happily step back now and let the candidates argue over who loves teachers the most — that’s a question I’m not qualified to answer. But let’s at least agree to some ground rules: 1. Unions aren’t the same as actual teachers, 2. Mike Ross loves unions, and 3. Unions love Mike Ross.