A fundraising event was held at the Heber Springs Community Center on Friday for the William "Zac" White campaign. White, a Democrat, is running to unseat the incumbent Republican Senator Missy Irvin. Outgoing Senator Mary Anne Salmon and Governor Mike Beebe filled the room with local candidates and Democratic supporters eager to hear the keynote speech by White.
Governor Beebe praised the progress Arkansas has made, especially as it weathered the effects of the Great Recession that gripped the nation beginning in late 2007. "Arkansas is one of the four states that has stood taller than the others", said Beebe. He criticized efforts, especially by outside groups, to paint a dismal picture of Arkansas for political gain. He also pointed out that Arkansas per capita income is higher than it has ever been, which has a direct impact on the current Medicaid shortfall in Arkansas. Federal contributions for Medicaid have decreased as the average income in the state has risen. "There will be some cuts because we will have a balanced budget", said Beebe. Arkansas is required by law to balance the state budget. Beebe called on Democratic supporters to help get their friends and neighbors informed about White and other Democratic candidates.
This theme was continued when Zac White took the podium and criticized his opponents for what he claimed are negative portrayals of the state. He argued that the opposition's main theme boils down to basic scare tactics. "They say 'Arkansas is in terrible shape and we have to fix it or else.' Or else what?" said White. He went on to say the theme of his opponents' arguments is "Arkansas is a bad place to live." White stated he wants to increase efforts to bring more jobs to Arkansas and supported Beebe's efforts to drastically reduce or eliminate the grocery tax. White took a jab at his opponent Senator Missy Irvin, Republican candidate for the Senate position. "We tried to get a debate going. My opponent wouldn't show up for the debate. If she's not willing to debate the issues, why would you want her in office?" said White. Irvin's campaign manager, Dara Samuels, informed The Sun-Times that Senator Irvin's schedule was fully booked over the next month due to previously scheduled campaign engagements and her normal legislative duties in Little Rock. Because of these scheduling conflicts, Irvin could not participate in a debate. White stated there is a perception that Arkansas is turning Republican and there is shame in being a Democrat. He responded to this perception saying, "I'm proud to be an Arkansas Democrat".
The Sun-Times would like to remind everyone that early voting begins October 22 and general election day is November 6.
**Editor's Note: Dara Samuel was inadvertently listed as Senator Irvin's campaign manager. Ms. Samuel is a local volunteer for the Irvin campaign.