Last-minute politicking in the runoff election for the 3rd District Congressional race includes allegations and denials of the pressures and promises involved in seeking endorsements from Kurt Maddox and Benton County Judge Mike Moore.
Maddox and Moore were two of the eight Republican candidates in the GOP primary for the 3rd District race. Rogers Mayor Steve Womack captured the most votes in the primary (19,358, or 31.2% of the vote), with State Sen. Cecile Bledsoe of Rogers gaining the second place spot (8,211, or 13.3% of the vote).
An endorsement battle then began, with Bledsoe being endorsed by 3rd District GOP candidates Gunner DeLay (who came in a close third with 8,053 votes), Steve Lowry and Doug Matayo. Bledsoe recently was endorsed by former Alaska Gov. and 2008 Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin. Bledsoe also has the endorsement of former 3rd District Congressman Asa Hutchinson and other “establishment” members of the Arkansas GOP.
It is the endorsement of 3rd District GOP primary candidate Kurt Maddox that has created the most buzz. Maddox, the only candidate in the primary to endorse Womack, received a visit to his home by Bledsoe and one of her supporters the night prior to his endorsement of Womack.
Maddox told The City Wire that Bledsoe and one of her supporters did come to his home the evening before he endorsed Womack. He refused to comment on details of the meeting, saying he didn’t want to get “caught up in what would really be a nasty he-said-she-said” issue just a few days before the election.
“I’m just not sure I should get in the middle of this,” Maddox said.
Moore, who has not issued an endorsement, laughed when asked if he’d been pressured by either camp.
“People that know me know that that won’t work with me,” Moore said, adding that he was not heavily lobbied for an endorsement.
DeLay did admit to sending Maddox a text message a few days before Maddox endorsed Womack: “Kurt think long and hard about your decision. I am now convinced Cecile is going to win this thing. If you come down on the losing side with a moderate you will do a great deal of damage to your future. Just be careful and prayerful.”
The Womack campaign said the text reads as a threat.
DeLay, who responded Saturday by phone while campaigning door-to-door in Springdale for Bledsoe, said it was not a threat but part of a previous message in which he told Maddox that Womack has a moderate stance on abortion in that he supports abortion in the case of incest and rape. DeLay said that exception is viewed by the “hard core” Republicans in Northwest Arkansas as a moderate position.
“He would forever damage his credibility with those (hard core) people,” DeLay said in explaining his approach to convince Maddox to not endorse Womack.
DeLay also sent The City Wire a text response he received from Maddox: “Thanks Gunner. I have spoke with both and looked at a lot of options, If you were the candidate things might be different.”
“If you read that, it doesn’t sound like he thought that (previous text) was a threat,” DeLay said.
The whole thing is petty politics from the Womack campaign, according to DeLay, who quickly and adamantly rejected the idea he’d been promised a position on Bledsoe’s staff if she wins.
“It just seems like a lot of last-minute whining by someone who is fixing to get their tail kicked,” DeLay said.
Womack said he’s kept his distance from the rumors of pressure and promises from the Bledsoe camp. However, he believes them to be true.
“I’m not at all involved in this thing. .... but the bottom line is that I don’t condone that stuff and I’m disgusted that we’ve got a situation that smacks of cronyism,” Womack said. “You can lawyer-talk this thing to death about it not being a threat, but I think it was a threat to Kurt Maddox and that’s exactly what’s wrong with Washington right now. ... This is kind of like Chicago-style politics and I don’t think there is any place for it in the 3rd District.”
Womack didn’t entirely reject the notion that the race had tightened in the last few days. He declined to offer details, but did say his internal polls show a close race.
“But it’s always smart to go into this (last few days before election) and work like it’s a tight race,” he said. “We know we are in a race. We said that from the very beginning. ... It’s definitely a new game.”