It seems as if the mailers filling the mailboxes of Senate District 9 voters will continue the back and forth between incumbent Sen. Bruce Holland, R-Greenwood, and Rep. Terry Rice, R-Waldron, as they inch closer to the May 20 primary that will decide who will represent the district in the next General Assembly.
A previous Holland mailer about Rice’s voting record on taxes also resulted in a war of words between the two Republicans.
The latest mailer from the Holland campaign claimed that Rice did not support Senate Bill 131 when it was being considered in the legislature in 2013. The bill, which made private the the identities of concealed carry permit holders, was overwhelmingly approved in both the Arkansas House and the Arkansas Senate.
Holland voted in favor of the legislation, which he points to in the mailer, before stating that Rice did not support the bill.
"Two years ago, liberal media outlets published the names and addresses of every concealed carry gun permit owner in the state of Arkansas. Bruce Holland sponsored and passed legislation to protect your privacy. Terry Rice did not support SB131 to protect your gun rights."
In a statement released Friday (May 9), the Arkansas Carry Political Action Committee took issue with the Holland mailer in an attempt to "set the record straight."
According to the press release from the group, Rice did not vote for the legislation when it came up in the House, but not because he was opposed to the bill.
"Representative Terry Rice was out of the state on February 19, 2013, when SB131 was voted on in the House, making it impossible for him to vote in support of the bill that day," the statement read. "His absence should not be construed as non-support of a bill that gave concealed carry permit holders complete privacy from both the anti-gun press and the general public."
The statement from ACPAC went on to detail Rice's voting history with regard to Second Amendment legislation.
"Representative Rice showed his support for complete privacy of CHCL permit holders when he co-sponsored HB 1623 in 2009. Terry Rice co-sponsored HB 1623 after the media published the permit holders' list in 2009 (not 2 years ago as Bruce Holland claimed in the mailer). This bill originally provided complete privacy for all permit holders until Governor Beebe had it amended to keep names and zip codes public as Act 1291. SB 131 completed the job that Representative Rice and colleagues began in 2009."
ACPAC initially declined to support either candidate due to both men's history of support for pro-Second Amendment policies and legislation, the statement said, and did not expressly endorse Rice Friday, though the group said voters "in Senate District 9 should keep these facts in mind when voting for their next state Senator."
While ACPAC would not come right out with endorsement, Nicholas Stehle, chairman of Arkansas Carry, personally endorsed Rice in a statement released Wednesday (May 7).
"Today, I saw a political mail piece that claimed Terry Rice didn't support protecting the identities of conceal carry permit holders. This is just not true. Representative Rice was an original co-sponsor of this bill in 2009 and voted FOR this legislation. Representative Rice was also an original co-sponsor of the 'open carry' legislation, and he has an 'A' rating by the NRA," Stehle said in a statement. "Desperate, untrue political attacks just to try and win elections should not be tolerated. Today, because of this untruthful mail piece, I'd like to offer my personal endorsement of Representative Terry Rice for State Senate."
In a statement to The City Wire, Rice said Holland was making accusations against him in an attempt to deflect criticism for his support of the Private Option, which Holland has been a steadfast supporter of, even declaring in an April forum hosted by the Van Buren Chamber of Commerce that he cast "the deciding vote on it, that's fine. I did."
"Bruce is again having a hard time with the facts," Rice said. "I was an original co-sponsor of the legislation to protect the identity of concealed carry permit holders. I’m a concealed carry permit holder myself. I also have a strong 'A' rating form the NRA – the same as Bruce. He is just doing all this to try and change the topic away from his support of implementing Obamacare – the largest expansion of government in Arkansas history."
Reached for comment Friday, Holland said the statement from ACPAC did not change the facts, which he said show Rice did not vote in favor of the legislation.
According to Holland, Rice could have "paired" his vote with someone who was present when SB131 was voted on in February 2013. Pairing is a little-known parliamentary procedure that essentially allows an absent member of one of the legislative bodies to be absent for a vote but have it counted so long as they are paired with a present member of the same body who is voting opposite of the absent member. In short, Rice could have voted for the legislation even though he would not have been present in for the vote if he had paired his vote with a member of the Arkansas House who would have voted against the legislation.
"Irregardless of any of that, there was no vote on that bill from Rep. Rice and so it's accurate (to say) he didn't support it," Holland said. "You have to vote for a bill to support it. That's the proof. That's what we have to run on, is our voting record."
Rice said even if he had tried to pair his vote, it would not have been possible based on his travel and when the vote was called.
"The vote was held on Tuesday the 19th, and I left town on the previous Friday. The bill would not have been put on the list that Friday before I left," he said. "Nonetheless, the bill passed 84-3. I supported the bill in 2009, and I supported the legislation in 2013. Facts matter, and Bruce Holland is not being honest.”
Regarding the controversy Holland's mailer has raised or Stehle's endorsement of Rice as a result of the mailer, Holland said, "It certainly didn't change the fact that I'm endorsed by the NRA (National Rifle Association) or that I have a perfect 100% voting record on pro-gun issues. There's no question on my record."