Analysis: Arkansas Senate Primary Breaks All the Rules

Tuesday, May 25th, 2010

The Associated Press

The conservative Democrat won in the more liberal, urban counties, while the challenger from the left was buoyed by rural and conservative voters.

Despite all the Tea Party talk of anti-incumbency, Republicans went for the establishment pick and one in eight Democrats supported a little-known candidate who believes President Barack Obama is a socialist.

This wasn’t just the one of the most bitter and expensive primary in Arkansas’ history. It was also one of the most perplexing.

“It’s counterintuitive,” said Hal Bass, political science professor at Ouachita Baptist University. “How in the world does someone under assault from the left do best in the urban districts and worst in the rural districts? It’s a conundrum.”

The fight between Sen. Blanche Lincoln and Lt. Gov. Bill Halter for the Democratic nomination — now headed toward a June 8 runoff — broke about every single rule of politics in Arkansas. It also solidified Arkansas’ position as a state that confounds observers.

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Union will put $1.4M into Senate runoff fight

Friday, May 21st, 2010

The Associated Press

One of the nation’s largest labor unions will spend $1.4 million on the three-week runoff battle between Democratic Sen. Blanche Lincoln and Lt. Gov. Bill Halter, an official says.

American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees President Gerald McEntee said Thursday the union will send about 50 staffers to Arkansas to help Halter in his bid to unseat Lincoln in the primary runoff on June 8. The union has 1.6 million members nationally and spent roughly $1.4 million during the 11-week primary campaign, McEntee says.

McEntee says the union’s efforts will focus on shoring up support among black voters for Halter.

Labor groups have embraced Halter’s bid and say they soured on Lincoln because of her positions on issues such as health care and union organizing legislation. Lincoln has criticized Halter over his support from labor unions.

Financial-rules bill clears Senate 59-39

Friday, May 21st, 2010

The New York Times

David M. Herszenhorn

The Senate on Thursday approved a far-reaching financial regulatory bill, putting Congress on the brink of approving a broad expansion of government oversight of the increasingly complex banking system and financial markets.

The legislation is intended to prevent a repeat of the 2008 crisis, but also reshapes the role of numerous federal agencies and increases the power of the Federal Reserve in an attempt to predict and contain future debacles.

The vote was 59-39, with four Republicans joining the Democratic majority in favor of the bill. Two Democrats opposed the measure, saying it was still not tough enough.

Democratic Sens. Blanche Lincoln and Mark Pryor of Arkansas voted for the bill.

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First lottery scholarships to be awarded next week

Friday, May 14th, 2010

Arkansas News Bureau

John Lyon

Some Arkansas high school seniors could learn as early as next week whether they have qualified for the first scholarships funded by the new state lottery.

Testifying today at a hearing of the legislative oversight committee on the lottery, state higher education officials said the deadline to apply for the scholarships is June 1, but they hope to start awarding the first scholarships to traditional students next week.

Nontraditional students may not learn until late June or early July whether they have qualified, said Tara Smith, coordinator of financial aid for the state Department of Higher Education.

About 42,000 students have applied for the scholarships, including about 15,000 traditional students and 27,000 nontraditional students. The latter group includes students already in college, officials said.

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GOP senator pleased with Kagan, sees no filibuster

Friday, May 14th, 2010

Democrat Gazette Press Services

Sen. Susan Collins, a Maine Republican, praised U.S. Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan and said she sees no reason Republicans should attempt to block her confirmation.

Collins, one of the Republicans seen most likely to join Democrats in supporting Kagan’s confirmation, met with the nominee Thursday and afterward said she was “very impressed” by Kagan. Collins rejected the argument by Republican leaders that she might not have enough experience to be on the Supreme Court because she hasn’t served as a judge.

“I do not believe that her lack of judicial experience in any way disqualifies her,” Collins said. She added that she won’t decide how she might vote until the Senate Judiciary Committee completes confirmation hearings this summer.

Kagan, in her second full day of private one-on-one meetings on Capitol Hill, also scored points for candor with one-time critic Sen. Arlen Specter, D-Pa., and convinced Republican Sen. Scott Brown of Massachusetts that she’s a strong supporter of the military, despite her move as law school dean to bar its recruiters from Harvard’s campus.

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