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Arkansas senate primary: The union effort to elect Bill Halter

The Post has reporters in three states covering Tuesday's elections. Read the feeds on the Pennsylvania Democratic Senate primary, the Pennsylvania 12th District special election, the Kentucky Republican Senate primary. Also see Monday's feeds on: the Pennsylvania Democratic Senate primary, the Pennsylvania 12th District special election, the Kentucky Republican Senate primary, and the Arkansas Senate Democratic primary.

Earlier: Blanche Lincoln, provisional voter; Lincoln supporter calls Halter a 'jerk'

Updated 9:15 p.m.
By Peter Slevin
LITTLE ROCK - Willie Holmes moved to Arkansas last year to push Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D) on the union membership bill known as card check. He lost, but stayed to sway her vote on health care reform.

That did not go his way, either, but Holmes is still here. On Tuesday, he sat with four colleagues in the Plumbers and Steamfitters Local 155 union hall and waited for the votes to roll in. He was hoping that, this time, Lincoln herself would fall.

Holmes is a field director for Working America, an AFL-CIO operation that played a big role in keeping Lt. Gov. Bill Halter (D) competitive with Lincoln, a well-known and well-financed incumbent.

"If people say they're voting for Blanche Lincoln," Holmes said, "we try to change their mind."

Working America started eight weeks ago with six organizers. At its peak, the group sent 45 paid workers a day to knock on doors, Holmes said. In all, the group spoke to about 90,000 people in 27 towns and sent 1.75 million pieces of pro-Halter mail.

The pairing of the Service Employees International Union and the Communications Workers of America reached another 85,400 prospective voters who agreed to discuss the Senate campaign, SEIU national political director Jon Youngdahl said.

SEIU, which has only 1,000 members in the state, spent more than $1.5 million, including a $1 million television buy, Youngdahl said. The national AFL-CIO spent $3 million or more on Halter's behalf, spokesman Eddie Vale said.

"People didn't realize that they had a choice," said Gaelynn Dooley, 26, a Working America field director. " 'Well, have you heard about Bill Halter?' 'Oh, then I'm with him.' "

"For us," Dooley said, "it's an affirmation that people really feel they can affect how their government is run."

7:27 p.m.: Blanche Lincoln, provisional voter

By Emily Kotecki

When Sen. Blanche Lincoln sought to cast her vote Tuesday morning in the standard election day photo op, she got a surprise. Since she had requested that an absentee ballot to be sent to her home in Virginia, she was only allowed to fill out a provisional ballot, which many not be counted until after the race has been called.

"Sen. Lincoln requested an absentee ballot in the event she would be called to Washington for critical votes," Lincoln campaign spokesman Katie Laning Niebaum explained. "Pulaski County Court Clerk Pat O'Brien confirms this is not uncommon among voters who are unsure of their status on Election Day. Senator Lincoln and her husband are happy to cast provisional ballots in person at their home precinct today."

1:46 p.m. Lincoln supporter calls Halter a 'jerk'

By Peter Slevin

LITTLE ROCK -- AFL-CIO. SEIU. Daily Kos. Democracy for America.

For all the outside groups backing the primary challenge to Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), none of it would be possible without the particular ambition of Lt. Gov. Bill Halter (D), who saw Lincoln's vulnerability as his path to higher office.

Halter, who campaigned through the night before voting early Tuesday in North Little Rock, is a man in a hurry. He returned to Arkansas in 2005 with the sole purpose of seeking his political future. Although he had been absent for 20 years, he jumped into the Democratic primary for governor.

It did not go well.

The trouble was that Mike Beebe, a popular attorney general who had patiently climbed the ranks, was already in the race. Halter quickly realized he couldn't win and shifted his sights to the lieutenant governor's office, but the episode alienated Democratic leaders, who see a reprise in his decision to challenge to Lincoln.

"He's just a natural-born jerk," Rep. Marion Berry (D-Ark.), a Lincoln supporter, said in an interview this week. "He's got a gene that thankfully not everybody gets."

Yet Halter won the 2006 lieutenant governor's race with 57 percent of the vote in a crowded field. Then, operating from an office with little power, he championed a constitutional amendment to create a state lottery to fund college scholarships -- and won.

One of the intriguing angles in Tuesday's primary voting is the disconnect between Halter's unpopularity among the Democratic political establishment and his fierce determination to put together a coalition of voters and take the prize anyway.

"I think he makes a darn good candidate," Alan Hughes, president of the Arkansas AFL-CIO, said in March, soon after Halter challenged Lincoln. Recalling the 2006 campaign, he said, Halter "was running against the old boys club. He came in and beat 'em all. He related to the people. He listened."

Halter and Lincoln, born exactly two months apart in 1960, have very different campaign styles. He moves faster, talks faster, drives his message relentlessly. She moves at a more comfortable pace, tends toward understatement and enjoys a lifetime of political friendships across the state.

In the 25 hours before the polls opened Tuesday, Halter raced through 20 events across the state, from El Dorado through Little Rock to Jonesboro and across to Fayetteville and Fort Smith before heading back to the capital for a series of appearances stretching past dawn.

Lincoln and her husband Steve -- an obstetrician-gynecologist whose practice is in Fairfax, Va. -- attended four events on Monday in rural eastern Arkansas, where she spent two terms as a member of Congress in the 1990s. She ended her day at an afternoon fish fry in Paragould.

In their third debate, held here last week at the Clinton School of Public Service, Halter repeatedly took the offensive, delivering a pointed and polished performance.

It was at the Clinton School in March that MSNBC host Rachel Maddow said of Lincoln, "It's one thing to be a conservative Democrat. It's another thing to act like you don't want to be a Democrat at all."

Lincoln, with far more money in the bank than Halter at the end of the last quarter, is counting on a boost from her recent Wall Street reform proposals and radio ads cut by President Obama and a well-known former president and governor named Bill Clinton. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is running television ads on her behalf.

In Halter's case, although he is running to Lincoln's left, the distance between the candidate and the political establishment does not appear to be ideological. While progressives and labor unions have dispatched footsoldiers and poured millions of dollars into the campaign, there is nothing in his record or his campaign to suggest that he is the next Ted Kennedy.

"I'm conservative on some issues and I'm progressive on others," he told The Washington Post's Phillip Rucker last month.

Halter has trailed Lincoln in the polls since he entered the race on March 1. He said he hopes for a clear victory over Lincoln, but his campaign would be thrilled if D.C. Morrison, the little-known third candidate in the race, draws enough votes to force a June 8 Lincoln-Halter runoff.

"If you wind up in a runoff with an incumbent Democratic senator who's been in the Congress for 16 years," Halter said, "it'd be hard to characterize that as anything other than a victory for us."

By Peter Slevin  |  May 18, 2010; 1:46 PM ET
Categories:  2010 Election , 44 The Obama Presidency , Democratic Party , Election Day  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Pennsylvania special election results
Next: Oregon primary results: What to watch for


Why is Barack Obama allowing the SEIU to besmirch our country and embarrass our White House? Surely the man has a smidgeon of common sense.

Obama, are you in there somewhere? What are you thinking, man? This ain't the Bronks here... Get your head out of your armpit and take a look at what these thugs are doing to our country. It's like watching a repeat of the The Beverly Hillbillies, only less humorous. Stop the SEIU now!

And what's with this Mexican president addressing our government and lecturing them? Excuse me? What is your problem, man? You let this jerk get up there and lie. He lied about Arizona's law deliberately, just as you have. Have you lost your mind? You aren't fooling anyone in America; people are getting fed up with the BS. You are losing credibility, Obama. Get with the program or shut the book, please. Do us all a favor.

Posted by: prossers7 | May 20, 2010 7:22 PM | Report abuse


Democrats turn the world upside down after the Supreme Court decided that corporations could donate to political races without sanctions brought against them, just as the UNIONS have done for years for the Democrats.
The reason Democrats went balistic against this Supreme Court decision? Because this would level the playing field for the influx of monies to both parties instead of just the Democrats raking in billions for races from UNIONS, SEIU, AFL-CIO, ACLU, etc.; now the Republicans would be getting a comparable amount from corporations as the Democrats have been receiving from the UNIONS, SEIU, AFL-CIO, etc.
This just might balance the playing field - Progressive Democrats decry it as unfair!
Since Obama's presidency began, the UNIONS, especially SEIU / ACORN have permanent parking spaces at the White House. Can you imagine if Bush had done anything as vulgar as this?



Posted by: prossers7 | May 20, 2010 6:36 PM | Report abuse

The Arkansas legislature, which includes the ilk of Marion Berry, originators of absolutely brilliant legislation such as you have to have a license to buy a gallon of 24-d herbicide but you can pay more and buy 4 quarts without one anytime you want. After Halter got the Arkansas lottery by himself, the legislature, not at all surprisingly for those who live here, began to fight viciously among themselves over the money. I might tilt this towards Blanche too, if I were with the writer in her Little Rock headquarters right now.

Posted by: LuckyGrad68 | May 18, 2010 11:12 PM | Report abuse

To be sure, voting for an SEIU backed candidate is like blowing your brains out with a gun because you don't like the color of your nail polish.

Posted by: Ombudsman1 | May 18, 2010 10:43 PM | Report abuse

If anybody aggravates the 'good ol boys' at the top of the hierarchy here in Arkansas, they are to be highly commended. Lucretia Borgia was more for the common man than they are.

Posted by: LuckyGrad68 | May 18, 2010 10:41 PM | Report abuse

Goodbye, Blanche, we liberals won't miss you!!!

Halter is going to clean out the pseudo-Democrats from Arkansas!!!

Bye-bye, Blanche!!!!

Posted by: JC505 | May 18, 2010 10:30 PM | Report abuse

in the late 20th century
as pop culture and drugs dominated america

rock bands became the
poets and sages of

of the illiteratti...........

so for dems who lose for following the obama regime

Don’t fear the reaper
by blue oyster cult

all our times have come
here but now there gone

seasons don’t fear the reaper
nor do the wind sun or the rain

we can be like they are
come on baby

don’t fear the reaper
baby take my hand

we will be able to fly
don’t fear the reaper

baby i’m your man...........

Posted by: ProCounsel | May 18, 2010 7:52 PM | Report abuse

I see lots of people wanting term limits here. Good idea on the surface with really serious unforeseen consequences. In California, we have serious term limits for the state legislature. The consequence (since politicians face at most one re-election cycle), is that 1/2 of them are lame-ducks, and are looking for their next job outside the legislature. This means that the parties have a choke hold on what politico's are allowed to do. Now, its all back room wheeling and dealing and the legislature is paralyzed.

Posted by: reussere | May 18, 2010 6:52 PM | Report abuse

Actually, Lincoln is a free trader, a proponent of job outsourcing. That is all anyone needs to know and quite enough to toss her out of office.

Posted by: mibrooks27 | May 18, 2010 6:50 PM | Report abuse

RealTexan1, what is the point of just voting them out if you are going to get new people that are just as owned by the Big Pharma, Big Insurance, Big Military, Big Banks, etc. aka Wall Street Gang.

What we/you need to do is to Vote people in based on them being NOT OWNED by Big Pharma, Big Insurance, Big Military, Big Banks, etc. aka Wall Street Gang. but being real representative of the people, of which there would be a few KEY tests, that is:
1- They are for for Universal nationalized health care as they have in ALL European countries, Canada, Japan, China, Israel, etc
2- For really ENDING the Wars in Iraq & Afghanistan,
3- For cutting the size of the US Military budget to 50% of what it was during Soviet Union existing! which means down to about $200Bill per year and investing those SAVINGS in American people and cities.

Much more here:

Posted by: RealNews1 | May 18, 2010 5:57 PM | Report abuse

No incumbents. Vote 'em all out. All of them. No incumbents in 2010 and 2012. Start fresh. Vote them ALL out.

Posted by: RealTexan1 | May 18, 2010 5:22 PM | Report abuse

"RealNews(?) wrote: Lincon of Ark is best example of how right-wing, which means owned by Big pharma, Big insurance, Big banks (aka Wall Street gang) most Democrats have been and why they MUST be removed and replaced with real liberals IF we are ever going to get this country moving forward again.
To be exact Conservative parties in UK, Germany, Canada, etc. are best proves of how right-wing the Democrats in US are, which means how they govern for benefit of Big pharma, Big insurance, Big banks (aka Wall Street gang), and as a result what Utter complete Lunatics Republicans in US are whom are even to the right of the Democrats."


Which is EXACTLY the reason we need term limits on ALL the Congresspeople! Chunks of the woodwork, like Arlyn Specter, 80 y/o and in Congress FOREVER so knows ALL the ways to make extra money, etc. Some of these people probably NEVER worked at a REAL JOB in their entire LIVES!! 80 years old is just going a little too far~~I don't care how GOOD or HONEST or anything he is!! MOST people are DEAD before they're 80!! My parents both died in their 60's!!

Congress is NOT going to push for their OWN term limits, so WE have to do it!!

Posted by: Maerzie | May 18, 2010 5:12 PM | Report abuse

Well, maybe Halter IS a jerk, but Lincoln doesn't sound so great either. I'm sure if I lived there, I'd be getting a lot more information from my friends and my own instincts after all this trash talk.

Posted by: Maerzie | May 18, 2010 5:01 PM | Report abuse

Lincon of Ark is best example of how right-wing, which means owned by Big pharma, Big insurance, Big banks (aka Wall Street gang) most Democrats have been and why they MUST be removed and replaced with real liberals IF we are ever going to get this country moving forward again.

To be exact Conservative parties in UK, Germany, Canada, etc. are best proves of how right-wing the Democrats in US are, which means how they govern for benefit of Big pharma, Big insurance, Big banks (aka Wall Street gang), and as a result what Utter complete Lunatics Republicans in US are whom are even to the right of the Democrats.

After all consider the FACT that the conservative party in UK, that is Margaret Thatchers (Iron Lady) party, is "four and square" for their Universal nationalized (aka Socialized) single payer health care system, which you can read about here:

And quoting from which page the conservative party in UK states:
"Over three years ago David Cameron spelled out his priorities in three letters – NHS. As the party of the NHS, we will never change the idea at the heart of our NHS – that healthcare in this country is free at the point of use and available to everyone based on need, not ability to pay."

Do you get it? The conservative party in UK, that is Margaret Thatchers party is 100% for their FREE, free for the Taxes that they pay, health care for all. What the Republicans in US call "Socialism.." or "Communism...."! WHY are the conservative parties in UK, in Canada, in Germany, in France, in Israel, etc. etc. ALL 100% for their Universal nationalized health care systems? Because a real conservative, unlike a lunatic (or agents of Big pharma, Big insurance, aka Republicans), would want Universal nationalized health care since that would mean great SAVINGS in cost of health care as evident by the FACT that in all the European countries, Canada, Japan, etc. that have not-for-profit Universal nationalized health care, health care is taking about 9% of the GDP while in US that has for profit health care, health care is taking a DEFICIT busting 18% of the GDP.

Much more here:

Posted by: RealNews1 | May 18, 2010 4:50 PM | Report abuse

Barack Obama and other conservative Dems should take note - if you don't represent the people who actually voted for you, you will be replaced.

Obama is called a pragmatist for adopting republican positions - I call him a wimp and a flip flopper for not standing up for what he believes in. This is why the republican base is more fired up and will win big in November 2010.

Posted by: aksunder | May 18, 2010 4:38 PM | Report abuse

Just get Lincoln out.

Posted by: mtravali | May 18, 2010 4:38 PM | Report abuse

"a-littlebird-ptolemy"~~VERY cute/clever moniker!

Posted by: Maerzie | May 18, 2010 4:37 PM | Report abuse

how come the clintons never went back to arkansas after their time in the whitehouse?

Posted by: SISSD1 | May 18, 2010 4:07 PM | Report abuse

Richard Daes of Little Rock for State Rep., Dist 35

- Trevor Drown of Russellville for U.S. Senate

- Lance Levi of Little Rock for U.S. House, Dist. 2

- Thomas R. McLemore of Warren for State Rep., Dist. 8

- Jim Parsons of Bella Vista for State Rep., Dist. 98

- Andy Riner of Hatfield for Prosecuting Attorney, Dist. 18-W

- Roger Sumpter of West Memphis for State Rep., Dist. 53

- Ronnie Spence of Paragould for State Rep., Dist. 78

- Richard Walden of Jonesboro for U.S. House, Dist. 1

- Weldon Wynn of Star City for State Rep., Dist 10

Vote Independent and write in Independent seems to be the coice this year.

Posted by: dottydo | May 18, 2010 3:57 PM | Report abuse

I don't live in Arkansas, so please help me get my bearings. Is this article slanted against Lincoln's challenger, or am I fighting for another reason not to slide off my chair to the right?

Posted by: jimsteinberg1 | May 18, 2010 3:41 PM | Report abuse

note to peter slevin: arkansas afl-cio is not an outside group. the bankers supporting lincoln are.

Posted by: a-littlebird-ptolemy | May 18, 2010 3:35 PM | Report abuse

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