Sunday, February 21, 2010

Benton County Congressional Candidate Forum

Photo from Stephani Buhajli, her notes on the event here.

Seven candidates for the Arkansas’ 3rd District Congressional seat vied for support Saturday at an event held at Christ Ambassador’s Academy, a private Christian school in eastern Bella Vista known for its outstanding science program. The event was hosted by the Benton County Tea Party.

I am going to try to call this thing as straight as I can, but I have a bias. One of the candidates, Gravette City Councilman Kurt Maddox, has hired me to consult with him on a very part-time basis. I like what I see and hear from him. Judging from the crowd response I’d say Maddox was the second-best received candidate, topped only by General Bernard Skoch, who has been in the race building support for months.

In addition to Maddox and Skoch, the candidates were Rogers Mayor Steve Womack, State Senator Cecile Bledsoe, Boone County Judge Mike Moore, Former DEA Agent Steve Lowery, and businessman Damon Wallace.

The most fireworks from the night actually came from the candidate’s opening statements. The questions were such that there was general agreement on the answers and so there was no way to distinguish the candidates based on that segment of the program. One thing that did get my ears perked up was when Mayor Womack, who has a reputation for being tough on illegal immigration, said that he favored “some sort of glide path to citizenship” for illegal aliens so that we could “hang on to the good ones”. I always thought we had such a glide path, called “legal immigration”.

At any rate, if the only distinguishing feature on issues was that Womack sounded a little softer on illegal immigration than the others, it shows you that as a group the candidates are tough on that issue.

Skoch was challenging John Boozman before Boozman jumped into the U.S. Senate primary. The rest of them came into the race after Boozman left. You can tell Skoch has been at this a while, he sounded confident and direct. He has also built up a base of support.

Skoch also threw the most elbows at the event. “Peer into our eyes and ask yourself which of us is not a part of the problem” he said. This was seen as a shot at Senator Bledsoe and Mayor Womack, who are widely perceived as the “establishment” choices in the race. But he rebuked all of the candidates when he chided them for waiting until Boozman left the race before jumping in.

Judge Moore was not having any of it. “Whether or not we got into this race months ago has no bearing on whether, or how much, we love our country.” Moore addressed the issue of whether a man from outside of vote-rich Benton County could win the nomination. “How many of you are going to pick your Congressman based on what county they are from?” Moore asked. “I’m with you” he said when no hands went up.

Bledsoe emphasized the positives in her record. “I did not know that being in public office was such a bad thing, I thought it was a good thing” she said. She also said that the people in her district, which includes NE Benton County, will tell you that she has not forgotten them.

Agent Lowery had some good ideas and a good line, “I’ve been shot at in Bolivia and lied to in Washington”, but could not match some of the others in public speaking. Damon Wallace spoke very well and cut a handsome figure, but did not give any compelling reason to back him over others in the race.


Blogger Mark Moore (Moderator) said...

Two things...

1) Tolbert reports that Damon Wallace is going to leave the race.

2) I am glad they did the event, and it was a good event overall, but I have to warn people about the balloting system, since some people are reporting those results.

There was a straw poll of sorts at the event, but it was so messed up that the results are almost meaningless. I'm not just talking about leaving a guy (Maddox)off the ballot. That ranking system was very unclear. Can you give more than one candidate a "5"? The ballot did not say.

If they scored it the way I think, then a strident supporter of say, Skoch, could not only help his candidate but could hurt the others. They could give their guy a five and everyone else a 1 or zero. A person who was trying to be fair-minded about it might give their favorite a 5, the next couple down a 4, and so on. The system they had allowed people not just to help their candidate, but to torpedo rivals.

Were I a Skoch partisan, I would have given Skoch a 5 and rated the minor candidates decent while giving Bledsoe and Womack goose eggs. That would promote Skoch while embarrassing the other two that are in best position to be in a run-off. I suspect that is what many voters did.

It was like the organizers had a dim memory of instant run-off voting (the process used to elect officers at the foundational BCTP convention back in July) but did not understand the details correctly. Most of the folks that organized that event are gone.

6:00 AM, February 22, 2010  
Anonymous Susie Doerr said...

Whoa! That's a lot of assuming and the example of "Skoch supporter" not being fair, is an opinion I don't find fair. I am not only a supporter, but I work double-full-time for the campaign, as a volunteer. I did not do what you said, nor did any of the other supporters of whose votes I am aware. I rated people fairly. Did I rate Womack's Q&A based on the fact that he said he's for amnesty? You bet I did. Did I rate Bledsoe's speech based on the fact that she came out of the gate on the defensive, saying she didn't know people were anti-politician these days? You bet I did. And those were fair ratings, Mark. I heard from exactly zero people who had trouble understanding the scoring system. Your guy, Maddox, was left off simply because he announced the day before. I was one who, in interest of fairness, wrote his name in on my ballot. So, you have a fair complaint about the lack of explanation and Maddox not being on the ballot, but let's not take this example of yours to the extent that there is an assumption of unfairness on the part of Skoch supporters. We have all worked very hard for over six months on this campaign so far. We are not unfair people, out to smear anybody. We have a message which resonates with the people and we have worked the district in a grassroots manner and made contact with a lot of people. We are out to win this, because our guy has the best message and the best background for the job. Period. In the end, we are all people who love our country and we feel General Skoch is the right guy to help us restore liberty.

8:28 AM, February 22, 2010  
Blogger Mark Moore (Moderator) said...

I just picked Skoch as an example- I did not mean to imply that his supporters are less fair than anyone else's. I just knew he had a lot of fervent supporters.

10:47 AM, February 22, 2010  
Anonymous steven estrada said...

Hypotheticals are best when they are hypotheticals, not weak attempts at poisoning the well with a carefully constructed lie, as mark did with Bernie and that assumption that most folks would lie for their candidate.

To my mind, I find Judge Moore's statement disingenuous, as the only time other candidates announced their intent was AFTER Bernie had knocked John Boozman out of the race.

John was losing because of his weak record, and his adherence to party desires, and complete lack of personal values. John needed to have his values told to him by county GOP party bosses. Bernie is far more principled, and began this contest when John looked to be the sure thing in the race.

Bernie, though, has been helped along by several things. The biggest push is John's weak voting record, which shows he has no voice of his own, but will merely vote along party lines, even if it is against the manifold needs of the people of District three.

Bernie is not beholding to party hacks, or other corrosive influences, which dog most anyone that has been in the Machine for any period, and I do mean folks like Bledsoe and Womack. People like they have proven to be part of the problem. Folks like Bernie, who had the courage of his convictions and certainty of principle to start running months ago, are what we need.

I have been a supporter of Bernie since the beginning, and yes, I am more than a little prickled by the temerity of all these johnny-come-lately's who entered the race once the really hard work had been done by Bernie and his grass roots groups. Good folks they may possibly be, except for those that have a history of party nepotism, they have jumped on the bandwagon in a race that has been hard fought by a man with real vision and courage.

We have needed good folks for a long time, now. The troubles were months ago, when the fight was most doubtful in outcome. We found such a man of principle and honor who would begin the contest when the situation had little hope for success.

Bernie has proven to be a man of vision and principle, who faced down a political Goliath, and made the Goliath run elsewhere.

I will continue my support for Bernie. He has proven to be exactly what District three needs, now and in the future. We need people who are capable of seeing the situation before others, and has the ability and courage to act before others jump aboard in their late and vain effort to benefit from the hard work of others.

10:51 AM, February 22, 2010  
Blogger Mark Moore (Moderator) said...

"not weak attempts at poisoning the well with a carefully constructed lie, as mark did with Bernie and that assumption that most folks would lie for their candidate."

You guys really know how to build bridges. I was planning on voting for him over Boozman and I have never had an unkind word to say about him on this blog before this post, and THAT WAS A HYPOTHETICAL AS I HAVE EXPLAINED BUT NOT TO THE SATISFACTION OF PEOPLE WHO ACT MORE LIKE THEY ARE CULT FOLLOWERS THAN POLITICAL SUPPORTERS.

Look it up. I have been gentle with the general, GENTLE I say, compared to what be. Just keep pressing my buttons.

6:29 PM, February 22, 2010  
Blogger Mark Moore (Moderator) said...

To clarify, I don't think it is "dishonest" to lowball the other guys as you rate yours. I am not saying they were dishonest, any more than Rush was dishonest for suggesting "Operation Chaos". It is simply gaming the system by the rules (honestly) to help your guy or gal.

That's why it is important to have a good voting system. The one they used was subject to gaming big time, and I would not blame the gamers for that, systemic flaws need to be corrected. Fixing the system was my point, not demonizing Skoch supporters. That's how things get better.

6:34 PM, February 22, 2010  
Anonymous steven estrada said...

Mark, I'll be one of the first to admit that a clean and just and accurate voting system is an absolute must. I am also very familiar how straw polls can be stacked by a very earnest, zealous and morally loose campaigns.

In other races I have noticed this trend of those that were less well-heeled, but loaded with active members. SWe view that kind of gaming, as Rush had suggested, as dishonest. It may still play according to Hoyle, but it is still dishonest.

Because of that, the Skoch people have actively discouraged those kind of practices, which is why it is nettling when a hypothetical decides to name names.

It is hardly cultish to make a simple, honest observation, Mark. Perhaps you are missing the true consequence of what you have written, and you do consider yourself gentle. Fact of the matter is, if you truly want to be objective, you can make your same argument without naming any names. The intent of your content is irrelevant if you actually point a mind in a particular direction with a particualr thought.

I am sorry you have not seen that, yet. I would be more than happy to discuss this with you on other matters, in other areas, as accuracy of wording, impact of content, and meaning have consequences.

I agree with you that flaws need to be corrected, and that there are areas where gamers could take the low road to, according to Hoyle, fix the results. There are many folks, though, that do see how dishonest those loopholes are, and will refuse to partake of such deceit. Many in this race will not, and as a writer of a blog myself, I would refuse, point blank, to name any names of any hypothetical to keep a stern objectivity on my side.

It's hard enough to fix a concrete problem. It is harder still, to fix a perception.

Please, feel free to discuss this or any other topic here, or on my facebook or blog.!/sestrada63?ref=profile

Just a gentle reminder that words, all words, have power.

5:55 AM, February 23, 2010  
Blogger Mark Moore (Moderator) said...

We view that kind of gaming, as Rush had suggested, as dishonest.

"We" mean the Skoch campaign? I'll look forward to the General's statement condemning Rush Limbaugh for his dishonesty then. And gaming that straw poll vote was a lot easier, and further from "dishonest" than a Republican deliberately voting in a Democratic primary.

The very idea that you seem so certain that all Skoch supporters would act as a unit and NOT game the system is a little creepy to me. Either they have an odd degree of conformity of action or you have a hyper-partisan unwillingness to admit that anything less than 100% purity can flow from the ranks of the Skoch campaign.

C'mon. We are all human. Even Skoch supporters. Where is the line between marking Bledsoe (oops used an actual name again, maybe I should have said "Candidate X" so you won't read a bunch of stuff into it) down for her comments and marking her down because she is the biggest threat?

That's why its important to design voting systems that are not so open to gaming, and why I am a big advocate of instant run-off voting.

I don't mind Susie and you calling me on using his name as an example, but after I clearly backed down and said it was just an example and was not meant to imply Skoch supporters were less fair than anyone else's, that was not good enough for you. You piled on in part because you don't seem to accept the idea that his supporters were "no less fair" than anyone else's, your position is that they are better. Please.

6:45 AM, February 23, 2010  
Anonymous Susie Doerr said...

Hey, Mark. Let me say first, I hadn't had a chance to get back here and acknowledge your response to me until this morning. Also, in terms of "speaking for the campaign," that would be me or Gen. Skoch, and nobody else. Steve Estrada is a friend and supporter and speaks for himself, as I am sure he would tell you as well.

I appreciate your response to me and I think you understood where I was coming from and acknowledged that with your reply. It's all good, as far as I'm concerned, between us.

I will say this, about Saturday, and about Skoch supporters in general. We do have a large group, I will call our "core group" and those are the people I am in contact with almost daily and who I see at all of our events. They have been on board since day one, and I know them well. I'm guessing that is who Steve references as well, as opposed to just anyone who supports the campaign. I do know those folks - I'm talking about maybe 30 people - quite well and I would put my neck on the line to vouch for their morals and values and fairness. But in fairness, I will also say, we made many new contacts Saturday. People I had never laid eyes on were scoring Skoch with 5's - some told me so, some I admit peeking at their ballots - and we even had one woman ask for Bernie's autograph. So there was plenty of genuine "new" support from Saturday. My email has been packed with comments from newcomers; people who had never seen him speak before. So in terms of voting influence and all that, there is some of both. Some who went in there knowing they would score Bernie high, but also because they believed he deserved it, and plenty of new folks who were impressed or "wowed" by him, as they are stating in email to me. I will also say there was a consensus among us that Judge Moore was our second choice. We liked what he had to say, although most didn't see him as an accomplished speaker, but that comes with time and practice. However, Moore's messages which were appealing to our group did not differ in any way from Skoch's, and given the other factors of his background, motivations, when he entered the race and speaking ability, they aren't jumping ship to the Moore campaign.

Anyway, thanks Mark, for your reply to me yesterday, and I apologize it took me so long to come back and write something back to you. I hope this reply comes across as just fleshing out some explanations, as it is not intended to put you on the defensive. I enjoy your blog and have seen your past mentions of Skoch, and I will continue to pop in here and read as I always have. I appreciate your viewpoints, even if we sometimes differ. I appreciate anyone who is "awake" and paying attention and involved, and I know you are.

8:22 AM, February 23, 2010  
Anonymous steven estrada said...

You know, Mark, at this point, we are arguing details. You have backed down in the point that you acknowledge you were using the name as just an example, you cannot see how that may have consequence.

What is so creepy about shared values? We, the generic we, those of us besides the Skoch campaign, have a certain, core set of principles. There are people who have huge areas of grey, and what drew me to this group of people and this campaign, was the sincerity and integrity of the people. This is the same shared value that would get these people, that generic WE to help each other, rather than look away when our friends, neighbors and family are in need.

That the ones I have known I can trust are the kind that would not cook the books is my fervent observation. It isn't some creepy conformity to know right and wrong.

I can only speak for myself, and what I observe. I can only also make an honest observation on reaction and actions of those about me, and those that comment on my friends.

As to all of us being human, well, in my case there has been some debate about that since the doc showed my mom the 999 birthmark on my neck. If I put you on the defensive, I apologize. I do tend to rise quickly in response to comment that are too general and that can have unseen consequences if left unanswered.

I think we have both answered (and re-answered) those items enough, and I would still be more than happy to discuss, here or elsewhere, the many other goings on.

I am very happy to have found this site, and look forward to many other posts and discussions.

10:57 AM, February 23, 2010  
Blogger Mark Moore (Moderator) said...

Glad to come to a place of peace with you. Glad to.

6:19 PM, February 23, 2010  

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