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Beebe praised for ‘steady hand’ as Arkansas’ Governor

story by Ryan Saylor
rsaylor@thecitywire.com

Arkansas Democrats honored the two terms of Gov. Mike Beebe Saturday evening (Aug. 23) while rallying its base with less than three months until the Nov. 4 general election.

First Lady Ginger Beebe, who introduced her husband, said if it was not for term limits, the governor likely would have never made the journey from the Arkansas Senate to the attorney general's office to his first opposed election in 2006 against former Republican U.S. Rep. Asa Hutchinson, who is challenging Democrat Mike Ross in this year's race.

The first lady said while Beebe will never again serve in elected office, he was not leaving behind his passions, giving a glimpse into his retirement.

"Mike thinks the next chapter of his life is going to be filled with playing golf everyday, spending time with family. But I, as the wife, know better," she said. "While he'll never be elected to an office again, he also will never quit fighting for Arkansas."

She said the fight will include working for improved quality of life "and how we see ourselves."

Former President Bill Clinton, who spoke by video, said Beebe's time in office was led with a "steady hand."

"During the last eight years, I've watched with real pride as Gov. Beebe has guided our state through some pretty difficult terrain," he said. "But regardless of what our national economy or the courts or the federal courts placed before Arkansas, Mike always remained a steady hand, guiding us through and making sure that Arkansas would emerge stronger on the other side."

DEMOCRATIC IDEALS
Beebe himself spoke of his upbringing as the child of a single mother and becoming a lawyer and legislator and how the opportunities he was given were possible due to what he said were Democratic policies enacted at the state and federal levels.

He said his own story was the story of many Arkansans and many in the Statehouse Convention Center in Little Rock Saturday for the annual Jefferson-Jackson Dinner, the Democratic Party of Arkansas' largest fundraiser of the year.

"Half the people in this room could probably tell the same story. You came from backgrounds that were less advantaged, that had obstacles, that had to overcome certain things to get where you are, significant economic depression – probably in your personal lives, certainly in your household. Many of you from single parent families, many of you from folks that weren't educated and yet you grabbed your part of the American dream."

Reflecting on his decades of public service, the governor said his life "wouldn't be worth anything" if he turned his back on Democratic ideals after achieving success in the private sector.

Discussing his almost eight years as governor, Beebe said much of the success he has claimed could be owed to experienced and energetic staff, both young and old, who "created synergy."

ELECTION PUSH
Throughout the evening, most of the candidates and speakers reflected on Beebe's time in office, noting that the best way to honor his legacy was to elect Democrats in November.

Ross, who officially received the Democratic Party nomination for governor at Saturday morning's Democratic State Convention, said Beebe has laid the ground work and he was prepared to build upon that.

"I know that we can build upon the foundation that Gov. Beebe has laid and we can do better," he said.

The former Prescott congressman repeated many of the themes from his stump speech delivered around the state, touting raising the state's minimum wage, protecting the Private Option – the state's expansion of Medicaid – and working with the General Assembly in a bi-partisan fashion.

Democratic U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor, who is facing a tough re-election fight from Republican U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton, reflected on his relationship with Beebe.

"I've known Mike as a lawyer in Searcy, I've known him as a state senator, I've known him as attorney general and now as governor. And he has been excellent in all the things he's done," Pryor said, reminding the crowd of Beebe's highest in the nation approval rating of any sitting governor.

"One of the reasons he has that is because of the fact that he's sensible, he constructive, he's smart and he's decisive. He's exactly the kind of leader Arkansas wants."

Beebe said for all the praise heaped on him Saturday, it was hard for him to narrow a single accomplishment from reducing taxes on groceries to seeing that the Private Option not only passed the General Assembly, but funding was renewed in 2014.

But he said Arkansans should not look back on his time in office and neglect the future.

"It's about tomorrow. We should always honor our heritage," he said, noting former U.S. Sens. Dale Bumpers, David Pryor and Clinton.

"All those people led the way and should be honored and revered and respected, but we should not spend too much time looking back. We should spend more time looking forward."

IMMIGRATION PROTEST
And while the evening was meant to honor Beebe, it started with protests outside the Statehouse Convention Center with a small group of protestors championing passage of the DREAM Act, which would provide a path to a legal status for undocumented children and students.

Humberto Marquez, who spoke during a town hall event featuring Republican U.S. Rep. Steve Womack earlier in the week in Fort Smith, said the protests outside the Democratic fundraiser Saturday evening were meant to affect change in local policies regarding undocumented immigrants.

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"Right now undocumented students are paying out of state tuition, which for us is very unjust. These are students who are graduating from Arkansas high schools and they are on top of their class. And they are getting treated unfairly by paying out of state tuition and sometimes, international fees," Marquez said.

In response, former FEMA Director James Lee Witt said in a press conference before the dinner that he was in favor of comprehensive immigration reform.

"I think we need an immigration policy in this country. If we continue to postpone that, it will continue to hurt our economy. … I think Sen. John McCain had a great bill that should be looked at and moved forward. I think we need a pathway to citizenship, but also I think we need to protect our borders at the same time as we move forward with this."

In a statement, Ross stopped short of calling for in-state tuition for undocumented students in Arkansas, though he said college overall should be more affordable.

"We should do everything we can to make college more affordable for any Arkansas student who studies, works hard and graduates from an Arkansas high school, and, as governor, I'll work in a bipartisan way to make college more affordable for more Arkansas families."

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Comments

Undocumented Workers???? Really

If we're going to call ILLEGAL immigrants undocumented workers, can we start calling drug dealers unlicensed pharmacists?

Let me see your papers,please.

What do we call it when the Federal Immigration bureaucracy drags its feet when it fails to renew legal immigrants work papers in a timely fashion? Are those hard working people supposed to just up and leave the country even though they are productive and their employer wants to keep them employed with all documentation in order. Maybe it's a lawyers' racket. Let the papers expire, then the shysters will "fix it" for a more than nominal fee. Part of that fee can go to campaign contributions directly or indirectly for local judges and other Political Action Committees...after the lease payments on the BMW, boat and timeshares are paid. The point is to ask why are we coming down so hard on hard working people when Wall Street gets a free ride bailout. When are the unrich majority going to stop scapegoating the less fortunate and begin to fight the wealthy people who are not satisfied with only wealth. They want power over the rest of us also. I say pick on someone your own size, like the rich guys, not the poor guys. To do otherwise is to be a bully and a coward. Stand up to those who rally keep you down.

Affordable Care Act "Obama Care"

Brought to Arkansas by our President, Senator Pryor, and Governor Beebe. It seems strange to me that most people in Arkansas don't approve of having this nonsense shoved down their throats.

Yes But Beebe Has

a steady hand and Pryor likes the steady hand of a Governor who raises the cost of health care for every person in Arkansas and that includes all the School Teachers who raised holy heck when their premiums were about to go thru the roof. Maybe the Republican candidate is on the right track when he said that he would CUT taxes by 100 million dollars.

Wouldn't It Be Nice

My ears seem to be receptive to a 100 million dollar tax cut for all Arkansas people and its nice to hear a person running for Governor like Asa H that understands that the people of our state have been hammered with taxes. Maybe even the school teachers who historically have voted for democrats will understand that everyone can use some tax relief to pay the health care piper caused by the great leader in Washington.

You Forgot To Mention

Mike Ross was a big supporter of the Health Care nonsense fom Washington and now he wants to be our next Governor. Asa is promising 100 million dollars in tax cuts so its a choice of more health care cost increases by Ross or maybe tax cuts by Asa. I'll take a chance on Asa but know that Ross can't be trusted to look out for Arkansas people. Just my opinion folks.