story by Marla Cantrell
U.S. Rep. John Boozman, R-Rogers, is still on the fence about his U.S. Senate bid. He announced Friday (Jan. 22) he might join an already crowded GOP primary race in an effort to unseat U.S. Sen. Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark.
And while Boozman — now serving his fifth term in the U.S. House — promised a quick decision, it can’t come soon enough for those with their own decisions to make.
Like State Rep. Rick Green, R-Van Buren.
The term-limited lawmaker had his future lined out before Boozman’s announcement. He would step down after this year, take a little time off, and then start campaigning for the state senate seat now held by another term-limited Republican, Ruth Whitaker of Cedarville.
Now, he has another option.
“An opportunity to serve in Congress and to keep representing the citizens of Western Arkansas and Northwest Arkansas is very appealing to me,” Green said.
Appealing, yes. But it may already be too late.
“I do think it would be a challenge for a resident of Western Arkansas to win over a Northwest Arkansas entrant,” Green said. “Time is very limited to raise the necessary funds to advertise and get your message to the voters. ... I’m just not sure the timing is right for me.”
Still, he has experience in last minute decisions. Green helped convince — in less than four days — his wife, Mary Beth, to run for the seat he now holds. She filed on the last day, won the District 66 State Representative race, and served three terms. Green then followed her to the state legislature.
Green was surprised to hear Boozman wanted to join the crowd. And he’s not sure why he’s doing it.
“I think that Congressman Boozman is taking a huge risk,” Green said. “In not so much challenging Senator Lincoln as entering the primary field of Republicans so late.”
Green said there is something else to consider now that U.S. Reps. Marion Berry, D-Gillett, and Vic Snyder, D-Little Rock have said they will not seek reelection to the 1st and 2nd Congressional districts, respectively.
“Should Congressman Boozman enter the Senate race, Arkansas will be looking at sending three freshman Congressmen to Washington ... I can’t remember that ever happening in my lifetime. This could weaken Arkansas’ influence as a delegation.”
If Green entered the race he would have at least one formidable opponent in the GOP primary. Asa Hutchinson has a long history in politics. He once held the 3rd District seat Boozman is thinking of giving up. He has a far wider scope of experience than Green, having served as head of the federal Drug Enforcement Administration under President George W. Bush, and as Under Secretary for the Department of Homeland Security under Tom Ridge. If things had gone his way, Hutchinson would now be running the state. Hutchinson lost the 2006 gubernatorial race to Mike Beebe.
“I have heard that former Congressman Asa Hutchinson is considering entering the race and would be a frontrunner,” Green said.
But the Van Buren lawmaker also said voters may be ready to send someone a little rougher around the edges to serve in Congress.
“I feel that the mood of the people is to send someone who is not attached to the Washington establishment and who is going to vote their wishes above and beyond any interest groups,” Green said.
That’s Green. Not campaigning.
This discussion would be pointless on if Lincoln was as popular as she was during her last campaign. She won the 2004 election against former Republican State Sen. Jim Holt, R-Springdale. A recent Talk Business Quarterly poll suggests that Lincoln has a 57% unfavorable rating among likely Arkansas voters, and that 56% of likely voters disapprove of her job performance.
Holt said he spent only $151,000 to Lincoln’s $6.4 million in the 2004 race, and points to that difference as a big reason for his loss in 2004. On his Web site, he reminds readers that he got 44% of the vote despite Lincoln’s financial advantage.
Other potential contenders for the 3rd District seat include Rep. Jonathan Barnett, R-Siloam Springs, Benton County Judge David Bisbee and Sen. Kim Hendren, R-Gravette.