Hester-Summers Race Heats Up (Senate Dist. 1)
Fresh Faces and Old Tricks in the Race for State Senate
Tim Summers is a Republican State Representative from Bentonville. Bart Hester is the fresh-faced young realtor who is challenging Summers for the Republican nomination for Senate District #1.
The political newcomer Hester looks very strong so far in this race. What has the sitting legislator Tim Summers in trouble? Any state legislator whose district includes the Bentonville area is going to bend over backwards to be fair to Wal-Mart. The knock on Summers is that he takes that too far and practically serves as the Representative from Wal-Mart in the state legislature. Does the giant corporate person in his district get favorable treatment from Summers even at the expense of real people? I am just reporting the common perception in political circles is that he does whatever Wal-Mart wants.
I will say that the other knock on Summers is that he is a relatively liberal Republican. I have seen that. I remember going to the capitol and speaking up for an education bill for autistic children that would give parents more authority than the educrats wanted. Summers voted with the Democrats on the bill. The vote was so close that the one switch would have sent it to the House floor with a "Do Pass" recommendation. What I say fits with the perception that Summers, while not really a liberal, is liberal for a Republican.
Since the GOP is the dominant party in this county, everybody tends to vote in the Republican primary, even Democrats. That's where the races are. Because of that, crossover Democrats help pick the Republican nominee in these races. That's why a very conservative Republican stronghold like Benton County still often elects people that are among the least conservative Republicans in the state.
A confidential but reliable source has informed me that Wal-Wart's top lobbyist Chris Neeley is now going door to door for Summers. Obviously someone in his position would not do that unless it was authorized. I doubt it would be authorized unless Summers is as influenced by Wal-Mart as his detractors claim. Is there anyone out there that can confirm this for us?
The other word going around, and this is less certain, is that the Summers' campaign is targeting Democrats in the district. That is, they are making a conscious effort to seek out Democratic households and get them to crossover into the Republican primary and vote Summers. This tactic would be another example of the phenomenon I discussed earlier, where conservative Benton county winds up with relatively liberal representation because there everybody, even Democrats, vote in the GOP primary. I would like some confirmation on that too, but when long time "friend of Bill" Dave Matthews is in your corner, its a good sign that you are the Democrats' choice for the Republican nomination.
Summers has the endorsement of the Democrat-Gazette, which normally means the other guy is the one to vote for. He also has the endorsement of John Paul Hammerschmidt and Tim Hutchinson. I respect what both of them did during their time in office and they way they were willing to be a Republican before being a Republican was cool. At this point however, I think it is fair to say that both men represent voices from a Republican establishment that the rank and file as grown very frustrated with.
This is not to say that Hester is an angel. I don't know enough about him to say, and there are also rumors of shady goings on from his campaign. For example, someone has apparently been doing push polls which falsely insinuate that Tim Summers voted for Obamacare and other items that he did not vote for. They don't say outright that he voted for these things, they merely imply it by asking the person polled if they would be "more or less likely to vote for Tim Summers if they knew he voted for Obamacare." If this is going on, its dirty politics and Hester ought to order whoever his consultants are to operate with integrity or hit the road. He's a fresh face, but can voters judge a book by its cover?