In Arkansas, we deserve leadership that is independent enough to speak the truth about the needs of our state and the nation. There are critical issues facing Arkansas and, in these perilous times, our elected leaders must be willing and courageous enough to reach across party, generational, racial, and economic lines to find solutions.
I will outline below some of the key issues I intend to address in the campaign. More importantly, I will ask you, the citizens of the 4th District, what are your concerns and priorities. To that end, I will visit and hold town halls in each of the thirty-three counties in the Fourth Congressional District. I want to represent you and it will be our conversations that will help to shape the issues I will work on as your representative.
Increasing civic and voter participation:
In 2018, more than half of U.S. eligible voters cast a ballot. According to the Pew Research Center, the 2018 midterm had one of the highest turnout rates in recent history. Arkansas, however, ranked 49th among the states in voter turnout according to the U.S. Elections Project. When you combine registered voters who didn’t vote and those who were voter-eligible but not registered, Arkansas had a 41% voting rate. This low voter participation does not bode well for our democracy in Arkansas.
A new law requires Arkansas high school students to pass a Civics Exam before graduating. Since voting is, perhaps, the most potent form of civic participation, we should be sounding the alarm about our low voter turnout. Voting is the most important tool a citizen has to hold elected officials accountable. Therefore, we should be enacting policies that will increase voter participation and expand opportunities for eligible voters to cast a ballot. Here are some of the policies that I support and could work effectively in Arkansas.
- Automatic voter registration;
- Same Day Registration, particularly during early voting;
- Pre-registration of 17-year olds;
- Expand the period for early voting;
- Strengthen civics education in schools;
- Online voter registration
- Restoration of rights for formerly incarcerated
Defend women’s rights:
- I support a woman’s right to choose as well as access to affordable and quality reproductive services;
- As a lawyer who has taught and practiced employment discrimination law, I support laws and policies in the workplace that promote equal pay. In Arkansas, women (16 and older) earn $0.80 on the dollar compared with men who work full-time. (Source: Status of Women in the States, March 2018 Fact Sheet – www.statusofwomendata.org.)
I believe that healthcare is a right and not a privilege. Therefore, I support some form of universal coverage (e.g., Medicare for All, etc.) while preserving an option for private insurance. I also support legislation to lower the costs of prescription drugs.
Supporting our Farmers:
My great-grandfather and grandfather farmed land in Ouachita County for over 100 years. Their relationship to the land and farming supported our family through several generations providing stability and opportunities for those who followed. So I understand the importance of farming and agriculture to Arkansas’s future. It’s our largest industry and, as your representative, I will support policies that will protect and expand the industry and allow our farmers to profit from their labor. I will oppose unnecessary trade policies and trade wars that lead to lost markets and higher prices for Arkansas consumers.
Food Insecurity (Hunger in Arkansas):
Feeding America, a nationwide network of foodbanks, released its annual Map the Meal Gap report last spring. In its report, Arkansas was second highest in the nation with 17.3% of households whose members may experience a lack of access to enough food for an active and healthy life. According to the report, more than 519,960 Arkansans struggle to get enough to eat. Of that total, 167,440 are children. One in four of Arkansas children are at risk.
I don’t have a solution today, but this will be a high priority for me. With agriculture being our largest industry, I believe that we can fix this.
We need comprehensive immigration reform that provides both border security and preserves immigration as one of the defining aspects of who we are as a nation. I support comprehensive immigration reform that includes a pathway to citizenship for DREAMers and other undocumented immigrants currently residing in the United States.
However, these undocumented residents should have to earn their way to citizenship. That path should include, among other things, passing a background check, learning English, and then getting in line behind those who came here legally. With a pathway to citizenship, they will not have to exist in the shadows, which will strengthen national security, keep families together, and stimulate the economy. Finally, we have to stop the inhumane treatment of asylum seekers at our southern border and get back to the proper enforcement of our laws.
Reducing Gun Violence:
Although we haven’t had any recent mass shootings in Arkansas, our state ranks in the top ten for gun violence. I am a gun owner, veteran, and supporter of the Second Amendment. I will work to protect the rights of responsible gun owners who seek to protect their families, to hunt, and engage in other sporting events. Nevertheless, I believe we can protect the rights of gun owners and pass common-sense gun regulations such as universal background checks, closing the gun show loop-hole, and red flag laws. I also support a ban on military style assault weapons and large capacity magazines. I know this is an important issue for us in Arkansas. So please give me a moment to elaborate on my positions.
Regarding a ban on military style assault weapons, I think we all know and understand that these weapons are not for hunting or sport. They are designed for combat and to kill people. However, I do not support confiscation of any weapons legally purchased and currently owned by law-abiding citizens. I would, however, support a voluntary. buy-back program.
Universal background checks are the foundation for any policy that aims to keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers and other prohibited people. Universal background checks have broad support nationally. I suspect that most Arkansans support background checks as well. Moreover, it is fast, convenient, and poses no burden on responsible and law-abiding gun purchasers. Similarly, we need to close the gun show loop-hole that allows a prohibited individual (e.g., protective order, domestic violence conviction, etc.) to purchase a gun from a private seller without going through a background check.
This is particularly important for Arkansas, which, in 2016, ranked fourth in female homicide victims murdered by males in single victim/single offender incidents. Nationally, for victims who knew their offender, 63% of female homicide victims were wives or intimate acquaintances of their killers. Source: Violence Policy Center, “When Men Murder Women – An Analysis of 2016 Homicide Data.”
Education & Jobs:
In Brown v. Board of Education decision, Chief Justice Earl Warren stated that “Today, education is perhaps the most important function of state and local government…… It is the very foundation of good citizenship….. In these days, it is doubtful that any child may reasonably be expected to succeed in life if he is denied the opportunity of an education.” That was true in 1954 and it is most certainly true in 2019.
We have to be aggressive in attracting and keeping business in the state and 4th District. A key part of that equation is a good education system (high school, vocational (CTE), and college) capable of providing, training and retraining a good and prepared workforce. In the 4th District, we have a great resource in the many excellent colleges (2 and 4 year) located In the District. We have to support our educational institutions so they can train and/or retrain our workforce as needed. Such training, however, has to be affordable. Students will need an alternative to and relief from the massive student debt currently required to get an education.
Our veterans need to be honored for their service to the nation. I will be proactive in identifying and addressing their needs. I will also try to encourage them to be civically engaged. They possess experience and leadership skills that can help us improve the quality of life in our communities.
Protecting our Environment: Climate Change in Arkansas:
Arkansas is, truly, the Natural State with an abundance of natural resources. Our industries, agriculture, timber, and outdoor tourism depend on maintaining our environment. The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission has studied the effects of climate change and has concluded that Arkansas will experience the effects from the changing global climate. To protect our environment for future generations, we have to acknowledge and not deny the effects of climate change and take measures to mitigate these effects. I will ensure that these discussions take place.
Criminal Justice Reform:
I support the findings and recommendations of the Arkansas ACLU’s Blueprint for Smart Justice Report which include that in 2018, 17,972 people were imprisoned in Arkansas. Between 2012 and 2017, Arkansas had the fastest growing prison population in the nation. In 2018, Arkansas’ state prison population was expected to increase by 9% between 2018 and 2028.
According to the Report, imprisonment in Arkansas has a disproportionate impact on Black communities. In 2017, the Black adult prison rate was four times as high as the white adult imprisonment rate. Despite accounting for only 15 percent of the state’s adult population, Black people accounted for 42% of the prison population in 2017.
Mass incarceration, in large part, is a consequence of our failed policies like the War on Drugs, inadequacies in our education system, and a failed system to support reentry into communities after a prisoner has served his/her time. This is a problem that we can fix if we have the political will.