Four of their potential opponents in the general election showed themselves to be polished politicians with their vague, evasive answers to direct questions by moderator Roby Brock. Chad Causey has worked for Berry the past 10 years and served as the Congressman's chief-of-staff during the tumultuous past year that saw Berry help Barack Obama ram through the most radical liberal agenda America has ever seen.
Steve Bryles and Tim Wooldridge have served in the state legislature and their political experience showed as they ducked and dodged hard questions on controversial issues. When asked if they would have voted for things like Cap & Trade or the unpopular health care takeover, responses like "I wouldn't have voted for it in its current form," were common. Eddie Cook has also served in the state legislature and wasn't as equivocating as his colleagues. But Cook was quick to pronounce he would have supported legislation opposed by most Arkansans and supported by the Obama-wing of the Democrat party.
The other two Democrats, Dr. Terry Green and Ben Ponder of Mountain Home, were more colorful and entertaining than their Democrat opponents, but eccentric enough that it's doubtful either will draw a significant number of votes in the May 18 primary.
We won't call a winner between Crawford and Smith, but we will present their responses to all the questions posed to candidates during the forum. The video will be shown in a multi-part series to accommodate YouTube's 10 minute limit for uploads. For those with dial-up or other slow connections, a transcription of each video can be found at the end of this post.
Moderator: What's the biggest problem currently facing our country? Crawford: Certainly we all talk about the deficit, debt. But one of the things being...I think is being overlooked is the unfunded liabilities that exist. That's the compounding of the debt and the deficit and all those programs that we have implemented but have not funded.
And so as I mentioned in my opening comments, fifty-six and a half trillion dollars in unfunded liabilities.
So how do we move forward?
Well, Congress enacts a brand new entitlement program that we cannot pay for. And so we continue to spend your money.
And I would tell you they're spending money like drunk sailors, but drunk sailors spend their own money. They're spending your money!
And so what we need to do is call on that political class and reel in that spending.
As I said before, we've got to put a stop to it. We've got to dig ourselves out of the hole. And we've got to make sure we never fall back in the hole again.
So I'm a proponent of a balanced budget amendment. And...I'm a constitutional conservative, but I think we need to amend the constitution to force Congress to act fiscally prudent.
Smith: Without a doubt the biggest issue is...uh...is the economy. It's spending is out of control and we hear everyone saying over and over again...uh...I want to cite a few examples and I don't think there will be too many fans of these big pieces of over reaching legislation that have passed.
One. People are talking about the financial regulatory reform bill that's going to put permanent bailouts for Wall Street.
Before that, we did TARP. And right after that we did the bailout in...uh...or excuse me the...uh...stimulus bill in 2009.
All of these pieces of overreaching legislation do nothing for small business owners. And people always say "Why are Republicans always thinking about small business owners."
Well, I for one, I believe as a legislator I should promote bills that favor people who create jobs. I'm the proponent of putting money back into the hands of the American people and letting them spend it, letting the free market run its course.
And so it's not that I'm about...in favor of the rich man or, or the big business guy. But it's what are we doing to actually create jobs?
That is number one, the biggest problem and then every other piece of the legislation and issues falls under that category, in time.
Moderator: I think I'm going to make an assumption about the answer to the question, and so my question is two-fold. Number one, do you think the federal government is too big and if so, can you name one or more programs that you would propose eliminating if you're elected to Congress? Crawford: Answer to your first question, yes government's too big. We need to shrink the size of government and expand the free market and create jobs in the context of the free market.
What can we do to cut costs?
There are a lot of things we can look at. But the first thing I want to look at is an issue that affects us all today, right here in the first district of Arkansas. It's not an abstract concept, it's something that's going to run your...uh...budget up and cost you more dollars as...as early as eighteen months from today.
And that is FEMA's expansion of the flood zone--the remapping of the flood zone in the first district of Arkansas to include 19 of the 26 counties.
Nineteen of our twenty-six counties are going to be forced to buy flood insurance from FEMA. This is a gross over reach of the federal government.
And what that's going to do is cost homeowners more money. It's going to cost businesses more money. And we're going to start to see housing starts fall. We're going to see the construction industry suffer. And we're going to start to see businesses move from Arkansas as a result.
We can work on that issue on day one.
Smith: The federal government is too big, and one example of that was the health care bill that just passed.
Now, I know it just passed but one of us is going to Congress and we're going to have to vote on whether or not to fund a lot of these things that they passed. So that's one area.
Another one is that there are too many agencies that have too much power over regulating...a lot of red tape. There's a lot of bureaucracy.
I think currently there's about 16 agencies that regulate food for example. That's another example.
Particularly, and more dear to my heart is education. I think the federal government has entirely too much power over...over the Department of Education...uh...over the state levels of education. I think that we spend too much money. We chunk it down the drain.
In particularly in the Northeast Arkansas, particularly in the Delta, our schools are failing and we've seen over and over again that money is not the answer to this.
I will definitely cut in those areas.
Moderator: Do you think that there should be some cuts made there, in agriculture, at the federal level? Crawford: Let me give you a little background on the most recent address to the United States Department of Agriculture budget.
The Obama administration at the beginning of the year put forth a budget that called for a 50% cut in the Adjusted Gross Income for farmers, 25% cut in the direct payment limitations, at the same time expanding the USDA budget by 10%.
So what are we doing?
We're taking money out of the hands of producers and putting it into the hands of non-producers by expanding an entitlement program. And that hurts our farmers' ability to produce food and fiber.
We have the cheapest, safest, most abundant food supply in the world because we support agriculture.
But I can make the argument that the...uh...that supporting our farmers is in our national security interest. We're already a net oil importer. We deal with countries that...uh...that don't like us very much.
The minute we become a net food importer, we have conceded our national security to folks who don't like us very much.
And so I would also like to add that we need to open up the Cuban markets so that we can get our rice farmers selling more rice.
Smith: No. We shouldn't make those cuts. There's a lot of things we can cut before we make cuts to farmers.
I'm a proponent of making sure our farmers can remain competitive...uh...particularly family farmers, but...uh...corporate farmers.
I'm definitely a proponent of CRP programs, and I'm a proponent of expanding those. Programs that help prevent erosion, and that help us increase wildlife. All those help our farmers.
I'm sorry, one of the things I wanted to say also...I will definitely, I haven't heard anyone else say this yet, I will definitely ask to be placed on the Agriculture Committee and I will definitely be an advocate for farmers.
Moderator: ...this year is the Employee Free Choice Act, also known as Card Check. It's a piece of federal legislation that's been discussed at length, particularly this last year. If you're elected to Congress, would you support or oppose this possible legislation? Smith: I'm opposed to the measure. I'm definitely a proponent of workers having a right to a secret ballot. And I believe that the unions have too much power. Crawford: Adamantly opposed to Card Check. I support the right to a secret ballot. I oppose forced unionization.
It's an economy killer, it's a job killer, and we certainly can't afford that at this time.
Moderator: How would you have voted on the health care legislation in Washington? Smith: I was adamantly opposed to the health care bill.
I believe that we should present a bill...and this is kind of an argument that's been going on, particularly in our primary. I did sign the pledge to repeal or replace the bill but realistically we should amend the bill to add things that will actually fix the health care issue. And that's the problem with this bill.
No one understood it and it didn't address the real issue.
One of the things we should do first of all is make sure that we're passing a bill that is friendly to small businesses. The bill that just passed is going to force businesses to fire people, the unemployment rate is going to skyrocket, and when you're passing a bill of that magnitude that is the equivalent of something that is going to affect 1/6 of our economy, you have to do better than what we did.
And what we did was just rush a big piece of legislation through that didn't address the issues and thus passed only on partisan lines.
I believe we should be allowed to buy insurance across state lines. I believe in expanding high risk pools for the less than 1% of the people who are deemed uninsurable.
But most of all, I believe that as a Congressman it is our job to go to Capitol Hill and put our heads together for something effective and not the bill that just passed.
Crawford: I absolutely would not have supported or voted for that bill. I prefer...uh...reforming health care costs in the context of the free market.
I would like to address pre-existing conditions and at the heart of that pre-existing condition argument is creditable coverage. And how do we address creditable coverage?
We allow for portability of that insurance policy between employers. We know in today's economy that employees change jobs frequently. And it is almost impossible to maintain coverage, creditable coverage which is required to avoid pre-existing conditions under COBRA. That is virtually impossible for working families making forty, fifty thousand dollars a year to make the choice between maintaining their COBRA premiums or putting food on the table for their families.
And so we need to address that in the context of the free market; portability for policies, competition across state lines, and uniform...uh...standardizing form claims...uh...claim forms to make the policies easier to make claims on.
Moderator: What do you think needs to happen to create more bipartisanship? And maybe you can offer me a definition of what bipartisanship would be. Smith: Well. I like the term non-partisanship... uh...when you're talking about positions, when you're talking about people becoming public servants.
The title of what we're trying to become is US Representative. That means I'm a representative to Congress on your behalf. It didn't say I'm a representative to Congress on behalf of the Republican Party. It didn't say that they're representatives to Congress on behalf of the Democratic Party. I am a representative to Congress on behalf of Northeast Arkansas.
Particularly on Capitol Hill...and I had some time to work there...the House Rules Committee is a good example of where we can change some things. Right now the party in power...uh...controls what amendment's going to the floor. It controls what amendments are debated.
And...I would say that's extremely unfair considering the fact...especially now that people are highly uncomfortable. There's a story that's often told about a young congressman running to Capitol Hill who was so excited he said, "Where's the Democrats? I want to meet the enemy." To which the senior congressmen says, "The Democrats aren't your enemy. The Senate is the enemy."
And that's a joke that we told, but what's fundamentally true is that, sadly, that time in Washington, DC is passed. And the answer is just to elect new people and bring new people in with fresh ideas.
Crawford: Why can't we all just get along? We've heard that before. And we've heard some common themes here.
We don't all get along on every fundamental issue. But I ask you this question, "What have we heard tonight?"
Jobs, the economy. We've heard about national security...maintaining national security. We've heard about putting people back to work. We've heard about protecting agriculture.
We can do it. We could sit down here tonight and we could solve a lot of problems.
The problem is you go to Washington and you get Potomac Fever.
And so bipartisanship, non-partisanship, partisanship, he said, she said, it doesn't matter. Statesmanship is the requirement. And we've forgotten that.
And so that's why I think it's...it's so important that your next representative be a citizen-legislator. Be the kind of person that does the same thing you do every day.
That's go to work, work hard to make...to make your money, and take care of your family. That's where it's at.
Tags: Rick Crawford, Princella Smith, Lonoke County Leadership, Lonoke County, Republican, GOP, Primary Election, Arkansas, Election 2010
Hat Tip: Lonoke County Republican Committee