UPDATE: This article was written in anticipation that Governor Asa Hutchinson would include items in the Special Session to move up the primaries and move back the Fiscal Session until after the primaries. The governor made that announcement today. The governor’s action is good news for incumbents, especially those who want to vote for Obamacare but who want to wait until after the primary in order to dodge an opponent. It is not good news for persons wishing to challenge an incumbent or to those opposed to Obamacare.
The Arkansas General Assembly will return in special session on May 26 to consider a bond issue for incentives to Lockheed Martin to expand in Camden.
Another issue being discussed for possible inclusion in the special session is moving up Arkansas’ political party primaries from May to March. The reason for the proposed move is to gain more national attention in the presidential primary by joining other southern states in an early presidential primary. In addition to moving the presidential primary, the plan would move state and local primaries in order to avoid the cost of holding two primaries.
A frozen primary
While the plan to move the primaries appears to be good for Arkansas’ participation in the presidential primary it seems to be an even better move for incumbent politicians who want to avoid a challenge in their political party’s primary.
In 2014 the last day to file as a candidate was March 3, 2014. Do you remember what the weather was like that day? The roads were icy across much of the state.
Now imagine filing as a candidate in December and running your entire campaign during the worst weather of the year. Imagine trying to knock on doors, put up campaign signs, and attract people to events during the season most people just want to go home, stay warm and stay off the roads.
It is already hard for a candidate to defeat an incumbent but it happens. For example, in 2014 Terry Rice became a Senator by defeating the incumbent in the primary; and Lance Eads became a Representative by defeating the incumbent in his primary. Also the 2014 primary saw political novice Scott Flippo become a Senator by upsetting a sitting House member in the primary.
Incumbents have name recognition and a list of people who previously helped as campaign workers and donors. A challenger has to work very hard to overcome the incumbent’s advantage. A primary campaign during the worst of the winter will be one more huge advantage for incumbents.
As W.C. Fields said, “Never give a sucker an even break.”
Early primary avoids Obamacare Medicaid Expansion vote
Senator Jim Hendren’s Health Reform Legislative Task Force must issue a report by December 31, 2015. The task force is charged by law with the duty of determining how to continue to cover people eligible for health benefits under Obamacare Medicaid Expansion. In other words, the task force will recommend how to go from Obamacare Medicaid Expansion under the name “Private Option” to some other plan that still keeps Arkansas as an Obamacare Medicaid Expansion state. Hendren has already told the task force not to rehash old issues (i.e. Whether to have Obamacare Medicaid Expansion or not.)
Moving the primary date is likely to be a huge benefit to Obamacare supporters in the Arkansas legislature. Why? Because the candidate filing deadline is likely to be before legislators have to go on record to support a new Obamacare plan that could draw out primary candidates who oppose Obamacare.
There is also some discussion among legislators of moving the 2016 Fiscal Session of the legislature until after the primary election. Such a move would also help incumbents who want to vote for Obamacare but not have their vote on their record during the primary. It would be extremely unlikely for the Governor to call a special session on the issue during the primary season.
Who are the winners?
Moving the primary will be good for:
- Arkansas’ influence in the presidential primary
- Incumbents (especially those who want to vote continue Obamacare Medicaid Expansion but who want to avoid a primary opponent)
- Advertising companies and political consultants who will make more money from a campaign season that is two months longer.