Vada Sheid, Dale Bumpers, Bill Clinton.
While Arkansas has been a reliably “Red State” for the past couple of decades, there was a time when voters sent a fair share of Democrats to represent the Twin Lakes Area to Little Rock, Washington D.C., and even the White House.
Josh Mahony, a businessman from Fayetteville, wants to be the first Democrat to serve Arkansas as a U.S. Senator since Mark Pryor left D.C. in 2015.
He visited with more than 60 enthusiastic members and guests of The Baxter County Democratic Club on Saturday, making his case that he he will do more to represent the residents, farmers, veterans, educators and students of Arkansas.
To do so, Mahony will have to defeat incumbent Tom Cotton of Dardanelle.
Taking a page right from President Donald Trump’s playbook, Mahony said he intends to put “Arkansas First” if he’s elected.
One of his major criticisms of Cotton is that he — like many politicians that end up in Washington — simply does not talk to the people he was elected to represent.
“He needs to represent the people of Arkansas, not Goldman Sachs,” he told the crowd.
Mahony is the nephew of the late Joseph “Jodie” Mahony, long-time State representative of their birthplace El Dorado.
Since announcing his campaign at the end of June, the candidate said he has visited with what he describes as the “honest, faithful and hardworking people of Arkansans” that appear to be increasingly “disappointed, frustrated and angry” that politicians like Cotton have been unable to deliver for them.
He describes young, working mothers who are falling through the cracks for medical care because they earn too much to be covered under state-supported medical plans, and can’t meet their deductibles for employer-sponsored plans.
Mahony said he also sees young people across the state who want to continue their education beyond high school, yet they don’t want to take on the crippling debt that those programs can impose.
“And we have farmers who work hard everyday, until their hands bleed, who are not receiving farm bailouts following the tariffs because they’re going to corporate farms, not local farmers,” he said. “And that’s not a mistake.”
In the rest of his time, Mahony took questions from the crowd, telling them he was in favor of a public option for those needing health care, while allowing those who want to take their employer option to do so.
He said he wanted young people to have the opportunity to attend college, vocational or trade schools and return to their home towns to find employment opportunities so they can raise their families where they themselves grew up.
“People need who work full time need to earn a wage appropriate for the work they do,” Mahony said.
In his goal to put “Arkansas First” he added he would like to create a Southern Delegation with politicians from neighboring states to demand the area be recognized for being part of the nation’s breadbasket.
Mahony said the state deserves its share of federal funds to improve connectivity across the state, in both physical infrastructure and internet technology and coverage.
He said infrastructure should be bipartisan issue and “an easy win,” but when both political parties collide like opposing football teams, neither side is willing to give up yardage.
When it came to the issue of a woman’s right to chose, Mahony acknowledges as a man he will never experience pregnancy first hand and that he should not make decisions for those who do. He said it’s a decision to be made “by the woman, her faith, her family and her doctor.”
As the owner of an AR-15 rifle, Mahony said he supports universal background checks for gun owners, adding that his right to own a weapon does not outweigh people’s right to feel safe.
He told the group he wants to get rid of the weapon, but hasn’t done so yet, recalling a time when gentlemen sportsmen used to belong to gun clubs where they could leave their weapons and not keep them in their homes.
Mahony said he does have a pistol that he carries for self defense.
He acknowledges that Arkansas businesses like JB Hunt and Tyson were built with the help of a migrant labor force, which may not have been the employers first choice when hiring, but concedes that those migrants “deserve to be protected and treated with dignity.”
Those refugees who come to our country in search of safety and security should receive it, but Mahony said felons have no business here.
“Cotton will try and paint me as an ‘open-borders, AOC (Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez) Democrat — a Socialist — a supporter of The Green New Deal’,” Mahony said. “I welcome that.”
As for Cotton, Mahony said he does hold him accountable for what he’s not done for Arkansas farmers, saying that the current trade war with China is hurting them.
He also said that farmers understand firsthand the importance of protecting the environment and supporting sustainability.
Mahony said the country is beginning to see the evolution of “environmental refugees,” those coastal Americans who are being displaced by reoccurring flooding and storms. He said the current economy is not equipped to help them.
When asked who among the Democratic presidential candidates he supports, Mahony said he won’t give a straight answer. He said his platform has been influenced by U.S. Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, but acknowledges that so far only Texan Beto O’Rourke has campaigned in Arkansas.
While on the trail, Mahony said he is talking to Arkansans that haven’t seen or met a Democratic candidate in 20 years. In many cases, he said Republicans are learning “we’re not what they hear on FOX News.”
“And, oftentimes, they agree with us on things,” he said.
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