Womack to local GOP: 'Fight for the soul'
Editor's note: The printed version of this article included a few inadvertent errors, including an incorrect title for Womack. Carroll County News apologizes for the mistakes; they have been corrected here.
CARROLL COUNTY -- U.S. Rep. Steve Womack told local Republicans they were in the midst of a "fight for the soul" of the nation last Friday night, a fight that would soon be brought to their doorsteps.
The Congressman's remarks came at the local Republican party's annual Lincoln-Reagan Day dinner, held in the banquet hall at the Inn of the Ozarks, in Eureka Springs.
"Arkansas's going to play in the 2014 election," Womack told the mostly older audience, "because, as you well know, Sen. (Mark) Pryor is up for re-election."
In order to swing the Senate in Republicans' favor, Womack said, the party must seize six seats in 2014, including Pryor's. The math, he added, left "zero margin for error."
At stake, Womack said, are a host of conservative causes, from repeal of the Affordable Care Act, which Womack called a "train wreck," to scaling back of federal welfare programs, tax reform, the Benghazi probe, and combatting gun control efforts.
"We have been challenged as a state to do our part," Womack told the audience, "and if its going to happen in the country, it's going to have to happen in the state of Arkansas."
Speaking alongside Womack at Friday's event was a roster of candidates eager to sign up for the "fight."
One of these was Ken Yang, the young candidate for the office of State Auditor. Yang campaigned for Secretary of State Mark Martin and also worked on the 2012 presidential campaigns of Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney.
He currently works in the governmental affairs division of the Arkansas Family Council, a conservative advocacy organization affiliated with Focus on the Family that opposes abortion and gay marriage.
In his speech, Yang cast himself as a son of immigrants and a voice of small business. His parents fled to the United States from Communist China, Yang said, and went on to start a restaurant business in Benton, Ark.
He promised "bold conservatism, fiscal accountability, (and) fiscal responsibility" should he be elected.
Attendees also heard from attorney general candidate David Sterling and gubernatorial hopeful Curtis Coleman.
Gubernatorial candidate Asa Hutchinson, originally slated for an appearance, was able to attend. Instead, his wife read a prepared statement. An aide for U.S. Sen. John Boozman also addressed the crowd.
Most of the candidates who spoke at the dinner praised the conservative agenda advanced by state legislators this session.
Coleman, in an especially energetic and rousing speech, said state Sen. Bryan King and state Rep. Bob Ballinger had been "unflinching in courage and conviction" and had delivered on their campaign pledges -- sentiments echoed by Sterling.
"I believe there is a lot of really good legislation that came out of this session," Sterling said, to applause.
Sterling, who practices business, commercial, and contract law in Little Rock cited as examples the 20-week and 12-week abortion bans passed into law this session.
Both bills were initially vetoed by Gov. Mike Beebe, who argued the laws would doubtless be struck down as unconstitutional by the courts, but were later passed into law by congressional overrides.
He also referenced the legislatures "defense" of the Second Amendment.
The state is now facing a lawsuit from the American Civil Liberties Union over the 12-week ban. Given the fact that Attorney General Dustin McDaniel has previously said such a ban would be unconstitutional, Sterling argued he could not effectively defend the laws in federal court, as he is now charged with doing.
"We need a good, conservative Attorney General who will defend those laws," Sterling said.
Sterling also railed against the Affordable Care Act and the Environmental Protection Agency, which he called "out of control."
"As your Attorney General, I would fight to protect the Constitution, the authority of the states, and individual liberties," he said.
Coleman, a conservative pundit and former business executive, spoke along similar lines, crusading against over-taxation, over-regulation, and what he deemed an over-reaching federal government.
"I think its time, in Arkansas, that we had a businessman to handle state government," he said.
He blamed the state's economic woes on "excessive and unnecessary" regulations and "the most onerous, anti-business, job-unfriendly tax code" in the region.
"We have the regulatory boot on the throat of too many small businesses," he said, an image invoked again, later in the evening, by Womack.
Coleman concluded with a rallying cry.
"Washington is not going to give us back anything it's taken," he said. "The states are going to have to take it back, and that means we need a coalition of courageous, principled governors who will bind together ... and start pushing an overreaching, encroaching, invasive federal government back into the constraints and restraints of the Constitution."