When I first heard the news that Lt. Gov. Bill Halter planned to challenge Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) in a primary, and further that he had raised $600,000 from various nutroots groups and $3M in pledges from the AFL-CIO, I was excited. Knowing that Blanche Lincoln would undoubtedly also rake in $3M-$5M, I was overjoyed at the thought of two Democrat candidates flooding the airwaves to convince Arkansas voters who was more pro-union, more pro-Obamacare, more anti-gun, a bigger believer in AGW, more pro-choice, and more likely to advance the Obama agenda. Because they are idiots, the netroots were also excited at this same prospect. Unfortunately for us both, the signs from the first day of Halter’s campaign indicate that he’s not exactly planning to run as the champion of MoveOn and DailyKos.
While MoveOn.org and other progressive organizations lobbied publically for Halter to join the primary and have been the first to embrace his candidacy, Halter would only describe himself as “grateful of the endorsements and support from individuals and organizations from every part of the political spectrum.”
Thanks a lot, MoveOn! Is it okay if I don’t ever mention you specifically by name? Oh well, at least Halter will strongly push for the public option unlike Blanche Lincoln, right?
Halter briefly addressed both issues on Tuesday, though he didn’t say how he would have voted on either one.
“If you ask 100 Arkansans what the “public option” means they are going to give you 100 different answers. People don’t understand what that truly means,” Halter said. “I would be supportive of giving the public the option to voluntarily buy into a medical program like medicare. … People are going to understand what that means more than just the two word phrase, public option.”
I’m sure the folks who coughed up all that money without actually knowing where Halter stood on everything are thrilled at this point to see him enthusiastically embracing their causes, especially given that Halter isn’t even willing to say that he’s challenging Lincoln “from the ‘left.'”
Nobody, however, got a bigger shaft on day one than the labor unions, the group that has promised to fund the largest chunk of Halter’s campaign. The unions, you see, are still dead set on seeing “card check” legislation pass – Halter’s answer, even as he received $3M in pledges from the AFL-CIO, illustrates the likeliness of that ever happening:
As for the union organizing bill, Halter said it wouldn’t be productive to discuss the version of the legislation that caused so much tension between Lincoln and labor unions last year.
“As you know, the the previous legislation that was labeled as ‘card check,’ it’s no longer on the table,” he said. “The negotiations now have moved beyond that and have moved into a discussion of can we make elections occur more rapidly and how can we ensure that workers have a process where they have the ability to decide collectively for themselves how they want to be represented in negotiations.”
I have to be honest. Given what’s occurred on the first day of Bill Halter’s campaign, I am left wondering at its raison d’être. I am certain that sooner or later we’ll get around to the business of two Democrats out-liberaling each other, but Halter certainly isn’t sounding very enthusiastic about having the support of MoveOn and ActBlue behind him – or at least, he doesn’t want to seem that way in public. I find myself agreeing with Blanche Lincoln’s spokesperson on this one:
“Liberal groups and labor unions from outside of Arkansas are working to unseat Senator Lincoln on account of these two specific issues. If Bill Halter can’t answer these simple questions, why is he receiving their support? Is he playing them for fools?” said Katie Laning Niebaum, spokeswoman for the Lincoln campaign.
“What’s he telling them, that he’s not telling everyone else?”
Indeed. The next few months in Arkansas could be more entertaining than I imagined.