Twelve incumbent state legislators, including five incumbent senators and one senator-elect, have announced their support for Scott Flippo’s candidacy in Senate District 17. Several of these legislators appeared at a press conference today in Mountain Home to rally support for Flippo in the upcoming runoff on June 10th.
The complete list of Flippo endorsements is as follows:
- Senator Cecile Bledsoe
- Senator Alan Clark
- Senator John Cooper
- Senator Bryan King
- Senator Gary Stubblefield
- Senator-elect Terry Rice
- Rep. Bob Ballinger
- Rep. Charlotte Douglas
- Rep. Charlene Fite
- Rep. Joe Farrer
- Rep. John Payton
- Rep. Josh Miller
This press release from the Flippo campaign includes statements from several of the pro-Flippo legislators, including this comment from Senator John Cooper, who has quickly become a conservative standard-bearer since joining the Senate in January:
Scott is an authentic conservative who will join us in the Senate to repeal the Obamacare Private Option, replace the Common Core Standards, and usher in an era of real conservative leadership for Arkansas. He will help give Arkansas a chance to compete with surrounding states by attracting good paying, high-level industries to locate in Arkansas — without having to pay them to come here.
Reps. Miller and Ballinger were more blunt in their statements. Ballinger called Flippo “a real conservative” and said Flippo “understands the train wreck John Burris caused by designing and forcing the expansion of Obamacare upon the state of Arkansas.” Likewise, Rep. Miller criticized Burris’s support of Obamacare expansion:
Neither our healthcare system nor the state can afford the price tag John Burris forced upon us through the Obamacare Private Option. We need Scott in Little Rock helping us to fix this mess and creating an environment where the private sector is solving problems and not relying upon a government bailouts.
I also spoke briefly with Senator Bryan King who was in attendance at today’s press event. The Obamacare “private” option has been and continues to be a central component of this race. King said Flippo’s opponent (Rep. John Burris) has been misleading voters about his support for this program in the legislature:
John Burris’s comments about the Obamacare private option are patently false. He was the architect of the Obamacare private option and voted for the Obamacare exchange, but now he’s trying to tell voters he opposed it? That’s like saying I didn’t vote for voter ID, I voted for “photo verification.” It’s just not believable and it’s not true. I think the voters of Senate District 17 are smarter than this.
In a mailer that went out before the primary, Burris (amazingly) told voters that he “opposed Obamacare implementation.” Burris also voted during the 2013 session to implement the Obamacare exchange (as King said) but has been telling voters in a television ad that he “blocked” it. Even more troubling: Burris said on his Family Council survey that he opposes the Medicaid “private” option, even after sponsoring the law and helping to push it through the legislature twice.
Today’s event in Mountain Home is not the first time we’ve seen incumbent Republican legislators getting involved in legislative primaries (although this phenomenon is still relatively new here in Arkansas). Just before the May 20th primary, a group of pro-private option senators traveled to the Fort Smith area in a failed attempt to re-elect Senator Bruce Holland, a much-needed vote for the private option’s reauthorization in 2015. I reached out to Rep. Burris to ask if he expects much support from legislative incumbents for his runoff campaign. As of press time, I have not heard back from him.
Conventional wisdom would suggest that Burris, a term-limited member of the Arkansas House, should have greatly outperformed Flippo in the primary — and should have garnered the support of most incumbent Republican legislators. Burris has also been very well financed, receiving tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from lobbyists and special interest groups. However, Flippo has already enjoyed the support of many legislators and made an impressive showing in the first round, trailing Burris by roughly 60 votes. Not too shabby for a first-time, relatively unknown candidate. Now, in a runoff, with more legislators getting involved, it’s anybody’s ballgame.