Last week we tried our first Arkansas Project Debate Squad experiment with a look at the race in District 67 between Rep. Steve Breedlove and John Van Gorder. I was pleased with the response, so let’s do it again.
Today, let’s focus in on the big race in central Arkansas, where Republican Sen. Gilbert Baker is slugging it out with Democratic challenger Joe White. This has been the premier race in the state in 2008, which isn’t saying much, leading columnist John Brummett to ask in a weekend column, “What the hell?” (It’s also one of only two contested Senate races in the state this year.)
Baker, music director for a Baptist church in Conway, has held the seat since 2001. From 2004 to 2007, he served as chairman of the Republican Party of Arkansas, though he’s commanded support from some big name Democrats in this race, including the Senate Majority Leader Bob Johnson.
White is a local businessman who has been active in local politics now in his first run for office, but he’s got some big guns behind him, too—notably Gov. Mike Beebe.
In a dull year for Arkansas politics, the District 30 race is one of the few to offer much entertainment value through the contenders’ punches and counterpunches. We’ve covered some of the back and forth here at the Arkansas Project: Two weeks ago, White hit Baker in an anonymous mailing on Baker’s closeness to fallen University of Central Arkansas president Lu Hardin. Baker hit back, saying that White is “mud-slinging.”
Both sides appear to be polling. White told Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reporter Seth Blomeley that he’s down by just two points (subscription required), while Baker claims a 15 point lead. I’m going to surmise that both sides are exaggerating and that it’s closer than that, with Baker up by a few points—comfortable, but not insurmountable for White.
Both sides are running TV ads—here’s a taste.
OK, so there’s a quick snapshot of the race. Now, over to you, Arkansas Project Debate Squad: Time to stand by your man. Where does this race go in the next three weeks? Does Baker hold his lead? Can White keep it competitive and pull it over the top?
Let’s fight it out in the comments section. You’re up.