One of the things that I've enjoyed about Fayetteville's Farmer's Market this season has been the prevalence of political activity and discussion. It is an election year of course, and at the market on any given Saturday candidates for the various political offices can be seen on just about every corner of the central square. During the course of this past summer and early autumn there have been petitioners present as well; these, seeking support for their various causes such as the Low Priority Initiative and the state-wide effort to prevent the construction of a coal-burning power plant in Hempstead County. Mix all this political activity with fresh locally-grown food, good music, and my usual mug of coffee and bagel and people like me feel as though we have found the promised land. That may be a bit of an exaggeration, but I really have enjoyed my visits to the market this year.
Since I have a reputation for being somewhat political people often approach me at the Farmer's Market or elsewhere in order to solicit my opinion on various political races or current events. Truth be told, I enjoy these encounters as I often enjoy fancying myself as a sort of political analyst or talking head. No, I never had any formal training in political analysis and I don't even know if any such training exists. I did study American federal government, political science and international relations in college however, so I do feel that I have a good enough grasp on the political world to make reasonably intelligent comments about it. Besides, I've seen political analysts with their predictions on network television fall flat on their faces enough times to realize that predicting the outcome of current and political events is a less than exact science. As a matter of fact, I consider it to be more of an art than a science. After all, human beings shape these events and we humans can be very - well, unpredictable . That said, I would like to offer my opinions on the presidential election as well as some of the races and issues that will affect those of us living in Fayetteville and Northwest Arkansas.
At this point in time, many people seem to be expressing the opinion that they are sick and tired of hearing about the presidential race. The various contenders desiring residency in the White House began their campaigns late in 2006 or early 2007; and, while we have come down to the final three weeks of the campaign for the two finalists, it appears that to many, the presidential race is never going to end. After all, we've been hearing about it every day for almost two years now.
Wait a minute! Did I say the final two contenders? What a mistake that was! Actually, there are other intelligent men and women running for the White House. The problem is that we're simply not hearing about them. How much coverage has independent candidate Ralph Nader been receiving in the mainstream media? Or for that matter, how many talking points have we been allowed to hear from Green Party candidate Cynthia McKinney or Libertarian Bob Barr? None of these contenders for the U.S. presidency or any other third-party candidates for that matter, have been invited to debate Barak Obama or John McCain in the nationally-televised debates; neither have their running mates been allowed to share the limelight with Senator Biden or Governmor Palin. Instead, the American people are being treated to debates that discuss almost nothing of any importance.
I have watched a couple of these so-called debates so far, and each time I have walked away from them with a profound feeling of nothingness. The candidates have argued about the financial crises but in reality, have said almost nothing concerning it of any consequence. There has been no discussion about the restoration of the U.S. Constitution and our civil liberties. Senators McCain and Obama have discussed and disagreed somewhat over the illegal occupation of Iraq, but agree that more belligerency and even militarism is the answer to most of the other situations we face in the world. Both are proponents of NATO expansion right up to Russia's borders, and both continue to repeat the lie of "Russian Aggression" in Georgia; this, even as the rest of the world recognizes that Georgia's President Saakashvili, with U.S. support, launched a genocidal assault upon Russian Peacekeepers and the civilian population of South Osettia; many of these civilians were Russian citizens.
Had at least some of the independent and third-party candidates been allowed into these presidential debates, the American people would realize that these candidates offer intelligent and well thought-out policies - policies, which could go very far in restoring our standing in the world as well as restoring the environment, achieving energy independence, and restoring our civil liberties. Of course, the mainstream media and both the Democratic and Republican Parties would prefer that the American people remain dumbed down to the fact that fundamentally, there is little difference between the two major political parties. This year's debates, if nothing else, guarantee that intelligent independent and third-party candidates will not have a shot at changing the disastrous policies that are undermining this country's standing in the eyes of the world, both economically and in foreign-policy matters.
That said, watching the McCain/Palin ticket in action is almost akin to watching a new episode of that old thriller, The Night Of The Living Dead. These two are truly a scary couple, and in spite of wide-spread disappointment of the Democratic Party's performance over the past two years, I predict that Barak Obama will be elected the next President of the United States; that is, as long as we have anything that approaches a fair election.
One truly interesting contest taking place here in Northwest Arkansas is the race for the Third Congressional District seat in Congress. The contestants are Republican incumbent John Boozman and Green Party Candidate Abel Tomlinson. One look at Tomlinson's website reveals a highly-intelligent and caring young man that proposes well thought-out programs and solutions to many of the problems we now face. It is not likely that we will see a Boozman/Tomlinson debate, although I happen to know that Mr. Tomlinson would like to have one. Still, considering that there is no Democrat involved in this particular race, the Tomlinson candidacy offers voters a clear choice between a conservative Republican that has supported President Bush almost all the time, and a true progressive. Further, this contest offers the Green Party a chance for not only more name recognition, but a chance to score well against a major-party candidate. While I don't consider it likely that Abel Tomlinson will defeat John Boozman, I do believe that he may well obtain some 30 percent of the vote. Who knows? He may even do better. After all, there are a lot of progressive people here who are not happy with Mr. Boozman's policies.
In the Senate race incumbent Mark Pryor has no Republican opposition. As in the Congressional contest however, he does face opposition from the Green Party with the candidacy of Rebekah Kennedy. Ms. Kennedy, a very knowledgeable young lady with a law degree, ran for State Attorney General two years ago. As in the congressional race, I do not believe that she will defeat Senator Pryor; after all, he is already an incumbent Democrat in a red state. In spite of his support of the Iraq invasion and many of President Bush's policies, many of Arkansas' conservatives consider him to be far too liberal. Therefore, it's not very likely that any informed conservative will vote for a Green Party candidate. More likely than not, such voters will either abstain or will go with Pryor. Still, I believe that Ms. Kennedy might be able to pull 15 percent of the vote in her direction. This would be a respectable outcome for a green running in such a conservative state.
In Fayetteville, there are six people running for the Mayor's position. These contenders include 19 year-old University Student Sami Sutton, first-time contender Adam Firecat, Walt Eliers, former State Attorney General Steve Clark, Alderman Lioneld Jordan, and of course, the incumbent Dan Coody. With six candidates running for Fayetteville's high office, it's unlikely that any one candidate will be able to win with over 50 percent of the vote in the general election. I believe that there will be a run-off election between Mayor Coody and Lioneld Jordan. Without trying to let any personal favoritism overtake my desire to be unbiased in terms of predicting the outcome of the mayoral race, I have been very impressed with the support that Mr. Jordan has been garnering. I have seen that support come from some unexpected places. I am also aware of a general feeling of discontent over the current mayor's running for a third term. Therefore, I believe that, when the final votes are counted on the night of the run-off election, Fayetteville will have a new mayor. His name will be Lioneld Jordan.
In the races for Fayetteville City Council there are contenders in three of the four wards. In Ward 1 the contest is between incumbent Brenda Thiel and Don Connor. Mr. Connor ran two years ago for the other Ward 1 position but lost in the first round of the three-way race; that is, if my memory serves me correctly. Given Thiel's connections to the local chapter of the League of Women Voters, her relationship with some inside of City Hall, and her centrist position on various issues, I believe that when the evening of November 4 arrives, the vote tally will be in favor of Ms. Thiel's bid to retain her seat.
The Ward 2 race is between Matthew Petty, a newcomer, and Mark Kinion, who has had some experience engaging the city government. If the so-called grapevine is any way in which to gage a contest, I will predict that Mr. Kinion will soon be sitting in the seat now held by Nancy Allen.
Alderman Bobby Ferrell's bid to retain his Ward 3 seat is unopposed (what is it about Ward 3 anyway?) but there is a three-person race for Lioneld Jordan's seat in Ward 4 between Craig Honchell, a manufacturing engineer and volunteer for the public school system, Sarah Lewis, a former environmental science teacher, and Bernard Sulliban, a substitute teacher and political science major at the University of Arkansas. During the current campaign I have personally neither seen too much publicity concerning Mr. Honchell's campaign nor met him in person. Therefore, my sense is that the apparent lack of publicity concerning his bid for the Ward 4 seat may hurt his efforts.
I have met Bernard Sulliban however, and if I remember correctly, this is his third run for the City Council. He is a member of the Green Party and in my opinion, has made a good candidate
in each of the races he has participated in. It is unfortunate however, that in each of these races he has had the ill fortune of running against other good candidates who happened to be better known. In this case, I am talking about Sarah Lewis, who also has a record that qualifies her as a true voice for the environment. Additionally, Ms. Lewis has been on the Southwest corner at the Farmer's Market religiously every Saturday morning. This has given her and her platform a lot of public exposure, and the fact that she is both an intelligent and very attractive woman who could have chosen a career as a fashion model likely won't hurt her chances either. Therefore, it is my belief that Sarah Lewis will easily win the Ward 4 seat.
While I fully realize that county politics are important and impact our lives, it is the Washington County Quorum Court that I know the least about. I really don't know how I have managed to know so little about county politics for so many years, but the fact of the matter is that this is an area of local politics of which I don't know enough about in order to make any predictions. So, with no offense intended toward the contenders in any of the races for Justice of the Peace, I'm just going to pass the county races over.
In the District 89 race for a seat in the Arkansas House of Representatives the contest is between Democrat and incumbent Jim House, a county resident and Republican Gene Long of Springdale. While I don't claim to know too much about either candidate, I have heard some voices of general satisfaction among voters for the work that Mr. House has done. Add this factor to his being the incumbent, and I will predict that he will win his race to serve a second term in the State House.
There is an amendment on the ballot for a state lottery. Given the influence of evangelical voters in the State of Arkansas I believe that this initiative will fail.
Last but not least, Fayetteville voters will be voting on a Low Priority Initiative. This initiative, which was spearheaded by Ryan Denham and Sensible Fayetteville, calls on the local police department to make marijuana arrests a low priority for simple adult possession of the substance. In reality, this initiative does not represent a change in the law. If it passes however, it will make a powerful statement to our local law-enforcement agency that "we the people" do not approve of any continuation of arrests for simple possession. Interestingly enough, there seems to be no organized opposition to the measure and signs supporting a yes vote are beginning to pop up all over town. I believe that this initiative will pass and likely, by a healthy majority of votes.
Well, there you have it. I have now offered my personal spin on the election that now lies only about three weeks before us. Locally,we have some very interesting contests and issues to decide. As regards the presidential election, it could be said that there is a lot at stake and that this could be the most important election of our lifetime. Think about this, and I hope that you will make your choices - all of them, wisely.