Political parties in high gear for election

Friday, October 15, 2004

With the Nov. 2 general election less than 20 days away, both local political parties are gearing up for the final campaign drive.

(Webmaster's note: Sample ballots, polling places and information on early and absentee voting appear on pages 8 and 9 of the print version of the Oct. 15 newspaper.)

Carroll County Republicans and Democrats are knocking on doors, calling prospective voters and holding public gatherings in what both camps are calling the most crucial election in many years.

Republicans were loading up bumper stickers and campaign signs last Friday, after state Rep. Phil Jackson rallied his party members at the Republican headquarters in Berryville .

Later in the day, the Democrats gathered for another rally at the traditional hog roast at Blue John's cabin, where Sheriff Chuck Medford brought out a squadron of law enforcement members to support him.

In Berryville, the Republicans started their day with a mild disappointment when Lt. Gov. Win Rockefeller was unable to fly in because of the rainy weather.

County Republican Vice Chairman Bryan King called on Rep. Jackson to rally the troops.

"This is the most important election in years," Jackson told the gathering of about 50 GOP loyalists.

Jackson said there was too much divisiveness in the country caused by the Kerry presidential campaign and blasted what he called a flurry of inappropriate and false e-mails from Democrat John Kerry's camp.

Jackson said the key to winning was not the mass media at this point, but local people talking to their neighbors and advising campaign workers to get people to the polls, and reminded the public that President Bush and the Republican Party have "turned this country around."

"Nobody talks about the positive things we have accomplished with the economy, and the 'brutal dictator' taken down in Iraq, resulting in the building of schools and the beginnings of freedom in Iraq ---- all you hear from the media are the negative things," Jackson said.

"We have an excellent slate of local candidates that we need to be proud of," Jackson said, referring to candidate Bob Grudek for sheriff, and Rocky Whitely, Eva Reeve, Harley Barnum, and Joe Mills for Quorum Court positions; Richard Williams for county judge; and constable candidates Randy Langhover of Beaver, Jim Butler of Cedar township; Michael Brown of Omega township; Clyde Thomas of Polo township; and Tommy Altstatt of Prairie township.

Also making recent local appearances were Republican state Sen. Jim Holt, running for the U.S. Senate, and representatives of Republican U.S. Rep. John Boozman, and Democratic Sen. Blanche Lincoln.

Sheriff's candidate Bob Grudek was introduced as a strong contender by local Republican Party Vice Chairman Bryan King, who blasted Kerry's stand on agriculture issues, saying, "President Bush has diligently worked to enforce current agreements so that farmers get a fair shake, and worked to get trade agreements that are important for farmers' financial security."

Republican sheriff's candidate Grudek said he wanted to continue to attack what he said was an epidemic of drug problems, particularly methamphetamine-related, by continuing meth investigations, but concentrating more on early education for school children and an emphasis on crime prevention efforts in the community.

"This is the worst social disease we face," Grudek said. "It destroys families and steals the future from our youth."

He also said he wanted to use trustees and misdemeanor offenders from the jail to do road work and clean-up, as he said he had seen being done in Benton and Baxter counties.

At a rally later in the day for Democrat Medford, the sheriff said Grudek's claim that misdemeanor prisoners could work the roads was "unrealistic and nearly impossible" until the new jail is built.

"With our jail as overcrowded as it is, we only have room for felony offenders, and they are not suited for road-work crews. We have very few misdemeanor offenders, and you can't just walk into the jail and take a misdemeanor prisoner who has a right to bail out before being put on a road crew, and they haven't been convicted at that point anyway. As for trustees, Benton County has far more state trustees than we do. We have only four available, to cook and clean and maintain vehicles. However, I have planned all along to use misdemeanor prisoners for road work and maintenance, once the new jail is built."

Republican County Judge candidate Richard Williams announced another meet-the-candidates rally, set for all day Saturday, Oct. 16, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Republican headquarters in Berryville across from Meek's on Highway 62.

The Carroll County Democratic Women will be hosting an early voting party on Tuesday, Oct. 19, at their headquarters at 107 W. Church in Berryville across from the courthouse. The party will be from 1 to 5 p.m. For more information contact Missy Jackson at (870) 423-9010.

Also, Democrats are planning a Jan Judy for U.S. Senate fundraiser Oct. 19, from 5:30 to 8 p.m. at Henri's in Eureka Springs.

A non-partisan meet-the-candidates night sponsored by the Holiday Island Homeowners association was scheduled for Friday Oct. 18, at the clubhouse at 7 p.m.

In Green Forest, members of the Green Thumb Garden Club will be hosting a political forum at 1:30 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 20, at the Green Forest Library.

Meanwhile, the rallies that have already been held featured speakers who stressed the importance of getting people to the polls as one of the top priorities remaining before the election.

At the Republican rally, County judge candidate Richard Williams stressed that it was perceived by some that he was against the county jail and against the airport operations, which he said is false.

"What I'm against is the final cost of the jail, and that the financing (and jail tax) was a false representation. It's not what the voters were promised."

He also said that though he had spoken out about the airport operations, he is not against the county airport.

"I'm against the fact that the taxpayers have to subsidize the airport, when it's only logical that it should be able to support itself financially."

As the Republicans hit the campaign trail later on Friday, the Democrats held their second public gathering in two weeks, with the traditional hog roast at Blue John's cabin.

Sheriff Medford was obviously pleased that lawmen from Arkansas and Missouri came out to support him. Benton County Sheriff Keith Ferguson, Marion County Sheriff Carl McBee, Barry County, Mo. Sheriff Mick Epperly, and Missouri County Water Patrol officer Steve Crane talked in support of Medford.

Medford was obviously "tickled" to note that both Sheriffs Ferguson and Epperly were Republicans who crossed the political line to support him.

Missouri Officer Crane noted that before Medford became sheriff, there was a virtual "wall" between Carroll County and Missouri, and said that Medford was a major force in getting cooperation and coordination between Missouri and Arkansas law enforcement. Ferguson and Epperly agreed. Republican Sheriff Epperly said, "Chuck gets the job done, and I've asked him for help many times. We need to keep this team together because there is no boundary line when it comes to law enforcement."

Incidentally, it was Ferguson who showed Republican Sheriff's candidate Grudek how he uses his trustees in Benton County. Grudek also said he learned during the tour that more use of reserve deputies would benefit Carroll County, increasing officer patrol and response time and follow-up reports to crime victims.

Medford's rally was the second Democratic rally in two weeks, following a well-attended dinner at the Berryville Fire Station, where the Democrats were able to muster one of Sen. John Kerry's shipmates from the swift boat combat era in Vietnam, which became a significant controversy over whether or not Kerry deserved his medals for being wounded in action and other issues.

Navy Veteran Drew Whitlow of Huntsville said he was on the same boat in Vietnam that Kerry commanded, and said Kerry saved his life during a firefight, contradicting what other swift boat veterans had been saying during the controversy last month.

"Kerry is a humble man," Whitlow said. He didn't have to serve, but he came down and got on our boat. We were a band of brothers. We knew we could trust him, and he could trust us."

Whitlow continued, "I have a real problem as a veteran. We have a group in the (Bush) administration that doesn't know what is going on."

Democratic County Judge candidate Ulys Kay Smith said in a brief comment that many of the people of Carroll County already know him because of the fact that he served eight years on the Quorum Court during County Judge Phil Jackson's tenure. He said one of his heroes was the late Democratic leader Arthur Carter, and promised to work hard to live up to the expectations of the people of Carroll County.

Other contested local races include Democratic challenger J. Carol Carey, running against Republican incumbent Quorum Court JP Joe Mills in District 6; Democrat Reba Stevens running for JP against incumbent Republican Eva Reeve in District 7; Cedar township constable Democrat Eugene Pike, running against Republican Jim Butler; Beaver township constable Democrat David Henderson, running against Republican incumbent Randy Langhover; and incumbent Democratic constable Butch Hanby versus Republican challenger Tommy Altstatt in Prairie township.

Margaret Fancher is running unopposed for the vacant JP position in District 4. Republican Rocky Whitely is running against Democrat Duane Coatney for the vacant position in JP District 2.

In District 1, the vacant JP position is being sought by Republican Harlos "Harley" Barnum and Democrat Robert P. Rizman.

Other JP positions, and incumbents for treasurer, coroner, county clerk, circuit clerk, tax collector and tax assessor are all running unopposed.

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