Gov. Mike Beebe will be in Van Buren on Friday (June 15) to attend fundraising rally for Rep. Tracy Pennartz, D-Fort Smith. It’s not the first political event for Beebe of the political season, and it will likely be one of many as he attempts to use his popularity to prevent Republicans from capturing one or both chambers of the Arkansas Legislature.
Pennartz, term-limited in the House seat, is running for Senate District 9 — a region that includes parts of Crawford, Scott and Sebastian Counties. She will face Sen. Bruce Holland, R-Greenwood, who defeated Rick Green in the GOP primary.
Arkansas Republicans believe they are in position to capture both houses in the 2012 election cycle. To gain 5 new seats in the House and just 3 in the Senate would give Republicans control of both chambers for the first time in modern political history.
The Arkansas legislature now has the smallest margin of Democratic rule since Reconstruction. House Democrats outnumber Republicans 54-46, while the State Senate has a 20-15 Democratic advantage.
Beebe is not interested in dealing with what could be an energized Republican machine during his last two years in the Governor’s office. He’s betting some of his popularity and influence will prevent Arkansans from voting a straight Republican ticket.
During a mid-March poll by Talk Business and Hendrix College, 64% of Arkansans approved of Beebe’s job performance. In the question on Beebe, 83% of Democrats approved of his job performance, 66% of self-described Independents supported him, and slightly more than 50% of Republicans polled said Beebe was doing a good job.
“Since 2007, I have worked with Governor Beebe to balance the state budget, advocate for economic development, improve public safety, and help to ensure a sound educational foundation for our kids,” Pennartz said in the statement released Thursday (June 14). "I have always made people my priority over any political agenda! ... I know it's tough right now. We need stability in our economy so businesses can commit to creating jobs.”
In citing her legislative accomplishments, Pennartz focused on tax cuts. She was one of many co-sponsors of legislation pushed by Beebe to reduce the sales tax on groceries. The plan that has reduced the sales tax on food from 6% to 1.5% and saved Arkansas taxpayers more than $794 million — the state’s largest ever tax decrease.
Pennartz also said he voted for more than $35 million in tax cuts to provide tax relief for small business owners and Arkansas families.
Pennartz is a recipient of the "Legislative Award" from the Arkansas Veterans of Foreign Wars and the Mental Health Council of Arkansas. Other awards include the "Distinguished Legislator Award" from the Arkansas Municipal Association and the "Friend Of Education" Award from the Fort Smith Classroom Association.
Pennartz now serves as chair of the Special Language Sub-Committee of the Joint Budget Committee; a member of the Public Health, Welfare & Labor Committee; the State Agencies & Governmental Affairs Committee; the Joint Performance Review Committee; and on other committees where she has advocated for the citizens of western Arkansas.
Pennartz is a U.S. Navy veteran and holds bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of Arkansas. Pennartz retired in 2006 as Associate Director of the Western Arkansas Counseling & Guidance Center after more than 25 years of professional service.
The Friday “Kickoff Rally” begins at 11:45 a.m., at Big Jake's Steakhouse at 1702 Fayetteville Road in Van Buren.