Seems like every election cycle the state party huffs and puffs about running a winning candidate in the third district. Each time around the block there seems to be new enthusiasm, new resources and strategies that will make it work. And then…nothing happens. Long before the end of the election year we all shrug and walk away.
It doesn’t have to be that way.
Now I haven’t completely lost it here. I’m well aware that there’s a huge challenge to winning in that district. Cook’s PVI has it at R+11. Now I’m not a big believer in PVI scores. They fail to account for a variety of things, focusing on the presidential results while neglecting other factors. For instance, the Republican leans of the other three districts can be accounted to Obama’s total neglect of the state, masking strong party registration and identification numbers and an active, powerful Democratic party in those districts. But that’s not to say that we don’t have our work cut out for us. There’s a deep Republican entrichment there for sure, has been since Hammerschmidt first got elected, and some of the, shall we say, isolated mindset some folks that way have feeds into that. Add in Wal-Mart and Tyson and all the other big corporations based out that way and, well, you get the picture.
But that’s not the whole picture. For all their bluster, the Democratic party hasn’t made much of an effort in the 3rd. As a contact of mine pointed out to me, a number of the county parties have become so used to Republican rule that they don’t really do anything. And the state party, well, let’s just say talk is cheap.
Add to that the changing nature of the 3rd and things get more interesting. One thing that’s always held us back in that districk is the small percentage of minorities there. That’s changing though with the influx of Hispanic Americans into the region. Arkansas has had the fastest growing Hispanic population in the country. That seems to have slown down a bit thanks to the bad economy, But none the less, the change that’s already taken place is impressive and lasting.
According to Census 2000 data released March 9, 2001, by the U.S.
Census Bureau, the population grew from 19,876 in 1990 to 86,866 in 2000 — a 337 percent increase!
Most of that growth is taking place in the 3rd, and once mobilized will be a potent force. Republicans have burned their bridges with Hispanic Americans with all their immigrant bashing, and they show no signs of letting up. In fact, they’re probably headed in the exact opposite direction as crazy as the teabaggers have become of late. That voting block though is there for a Democrat that will mobilize them. So far, political influence is proving illusive, but if organized Hispanic Arkansans have the potential to change NW Arkansas and strengthen Democratic and progressive power across the state.
But it’s more than just Hispanic growth. People from across the state and country are moving out west to take advantage of the economic growth the region’s seen and the gorgeous scenery of its mountains. That kind of change has, to my understanding, been essential to Democratic victory in places like Virginia and North Carolina, and can be replicated here as well.
But then there’s the matter of candidates. Boozeman himself is nothing but a backbencher. Seriously-name one thing he’s done or stood for of significance his whole time in Congress. And why, pray tell, do you never hear about the RSCC trying to get him to run against Blanche, or hear his name thrown around for Governor even though he’s the only prominent Republican left in the state? It’s because the guy’s nothing but a semi-warm body filling a seat. The guy’s beatable with the right campaign.
That said, there’s a question as to whether the guy running against him are worth investing time, effort, and money in. David Whitaker seems like an interesting guy and with the right campaign he might be the candidate to take Boozeman down. But so far we haven’t seen much activity out of him. If he’s willing to do the work then I’ll happily help him out anyway I can, including with fundraising and volunteering, and I hope the rest of you would too. But we’ve got to see that effort from him first. If he’s going to sit on his hands then there’s no point in trying to help him out. Hopefully, he’ll get a decent campaign moving, and then we can get to work in the 3rd. I really would love that to be the case, and I’d love the chance to find out about Whitaker either from him or his campaign people. As I said, this is winnable-tough but winnable-and I and many others would be happy to help in the fight.