Imagine this nightmare scenario. Mike Ross runs for governor. That’s nightmarish enough, but it gets worse. There are two other candidates in the race, Bill Halter and Dustin McDaniel of course, who split the more progressive vote, allowing Ross to win outright without a runoff. Seriously. Think about it. And hey, if you’re so keen on saying no problem we’ll just vote for the Greens or sit that one out…remember the poison Blanche Lincoln was to the rest of the ticket? Imagine what Mike Ross would be statewide. Picture trying to salvage whatever is left after that. In 2014, we are going to have a serious interest in making sure this nightmare scenario doesn’t play out.
Let me be clear here. We want to see a Democrat elected Governor in 2014, a real Democrat. Mike Ross would be a disaster for this state, either by opening the door for a Republican to take the office or by actually winning and bringing with him all the corporate cronies that have been funding him for years. Either McDaniel or Halter would be dramatically better than either scenario.
Both of those Democrats have generally progressive leanings. McDaniel is of course tight with the good ol’ boys, but he’s been good for progressives in a lot of ways and usually comes home to us on the policy making front. Halter, meanwhile is pretty much beloved by the progressive community now and for good reason. He’s worked his butt off to earn our support and, short of a screw up on his part, that won’t change. Still, McDaniel would draw considerable votes, and my fear is that he would draw them more from Halter than from Ross and give the rat a pass. We have an interest in making sure that doesn’t happen. In other words, we have to make sure that there is a unified progressive front against Ross, and that means making sure that Halter and McDaniel don’t nuke each other.
Now, it’s no secret that our soon to be former Lt. Gov and our Attorney General have no great love for each other. That’s sugar coating it…it’s probably safer to say they hate each other. That said, they have more in common than they do that separates them and both have done a lot of good for the state. Personally, I’d like to see them both continue to serve in major capacities, and if they were to sit down and work pass their petty differences they might see that it’s in their best interests, and the interest of the state, for them to work as a team, one running for Governor and the other running for, say, the U.S. Senate against Boozman or stepping up to Mark Pryor’s seat if he retires (although we may have to remove his sorry ass if the last two days are any indication). For that matter, Halter could well take on Tim Griffin or, less likely I think, McDaniel could decide to take out Rick Crawford.
Halter would make a damn good senator, we wouldn’t have drafted him otherwise. In Washington, he’d be a much needed voice for poor, working, and middle-class Americans. But that said, he’d make a really good governor too and could dramatically change the state for the better. On the other hand, I know there are a lot of progressives suspicious of McDaniel. He is, after all, tied pretty heavily to Blanche Lincoln and the rest of the ol’ boys network and a few of the actions he’s taken have been questionable and even irritating. Still, he’s taken on shady lenders, helped get the animal cruelty bill passed, stood up for Sotomayor, among other significant accomplishments. And let’s not forget that he’s never run away from being pro-choice and that he’s probably about as partisan as I am. At heart, I think, he’s one of us, even if he has used the machine to get where he is now. I have no doubt that he’d make a much better governor than Mike Ross or any Republican out there, and really I think he has plenty of qualities that would make him an excellent senator. (Whether he knows it or not, he might serve the state even better in that capacity than he would as a governor.)
This will not be the last time I raise this issue. After the beating we took this election, Democrats have to think long term in rebuilding the party, and progressives have to realize that we have now found ourselves with fewer options to pick from. It would have been a different world if Pat O’Brien, Shane Broadway, and L.J. Bryant had all won their seats, or if even two of the three had. Now though, our two big guns are Dustin and Bill. I’m not interested in using them on one another when we have more important battles to wage, and I’d like to keep both of them working for us long into the state’s future in one capacity or another.