October 8, 2014 Edition

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Strawberry mayoral candidate Opal Mullen (second, from left), Martha Durham of Smithville and Patricia Whitmire of Walnut Ridge greet William Jefferson Clinton, the 42nd president of the United States. Former President Clinton attended the Tri-County Democratic Dinner held Monday night at the Hoxie Service Center.
TD Photo ~ John Bland

Clinton attends rally in Hoxie

John Bland

Former President Bill Clinton stole the show Monday night when he attended the Tri-County Democratic Dinner and Rally at the Hoxie Service Center. Clinton, along with Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe, joined a roster of state Democratic candidates who were present for the dinner.

Organizers of the Tri-County event, which includes Lawrence, Clay and Greene counties, had anticipated for several days that Clinton could possibly attend the dinner. Not until midday Monday did Lawrence County Judge Dale Freeman confirm that Clinton would attend.

Tina Stowers, Lawrence County Clerk, said food was prepared for 250, but the crowd was less than that. Many did not know Clinton would be present.

Clinton spoke Monday at rallies held at the University of Central Arkansas in Conway and then at Arkansas State University in Jonesboro in an effort to encourage young people to vote in the Nov. 4 General Election. He also attended an event in Paragould before coming to Hoxie.

Along with Clinton and Gov. Beebe, the Democratic candidates attending and speaking in Hoxie included: U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor, who is seeking reelection against Republican challenger Tom Cotton; Mike Ross, former U.S. Representative, who is running for governor; Jackie McPherson, candidate for the first congressional district seat held by Congressman Rick Crawford (R); and Mark Robertson, candidate for state land commissioner.

Also present Monday night were State Rep. James Ratliff and State Sen. Robert Thompson, who both face opponents in the race for re-election.

John Thomison of Imboden served as master of ceremonies, and Redda Russell and representatives from Lawrence County's Girl Scout troops posted the colors.

"I'm from Northeast Arkansas," said Gov. Beebe, who is a native of Newport and graduate of ASU. "The best job in the world is being the ex-president of the United States. The next best job is being ex-governor."

"I owe this state more than I could ever give back," Beebe said, adding that he "owes much to the people of Arkansas, many of whom are in this room tonight."

Former President Bill Clinton said he and his fellow Arkansas Democrats had taken their "road show" to Conway, Jonesboro and Paragould. "They said you were here. I said let's go see them."

Due to flight regulations for his pilots, who had been on the job since early that morning, Clinton was under time constraints to fly on to Fayetteville after leaving Hoxie. He said keeping the pilots beyond their time limit would "violate all kinds of rules. I'm too old to go to jail, plus I'm a grandfather," he joked.

Despite the tight schedule, Clinton made time to shake hands and pose for photos with as many as possible, and he gave a rousing speech in support of the Democratic candidates.

"I'm delighted to be here," he said, adding that he was here to strongly support Senator Pryor, Mike Ross and the other candidates.

Clinton said of the Republican candidates, "They're all running against the White House."

"Mike Beebe literally has the highest approval rating of any governor in America," said Clinton. "Arkansas is the number one state in America, in terms of health insurance, and the Private Option went to (help) working people. It (the Private Option) meant that hospitals didn't have as much unpaid healthcare."

He noted that the anticipated increase in health insurance in Arkansas for next year is a minus two percent. In Louisiana, where state legislators voted down the Private Option Health Care Act, health insurance rates are rising 18 and a half percent.

"If you like what Mike Beebe did, you have to vote for Mike Ross," Clinton said.

The former president said only three things matter when reflecting on one's service in public office. "Are the people better off? Do our children have a better future? And have the people been brought together?"

Clinton said he is accused of being obsessed with Arkansas. "I am obsessed with you."

"This is as good a group of (Democratic) candidates as I can ever remember." Instead of negative TV commercials, Clinton said he believes in "looking people in the eye, listening to them and making a real human connection."

He also said he believes the economy is coming back. "Politics is the only thing in our way. Then people will get the show on the road."

Mike Ross told the crowd that his parents were educators and that education will be his priority. Children need to start their education sooner and end stronger. He also wants to see a renewed interest in vocational–technical education.

Ross said he believes in "equal pay for equal work" for women. He added that "domestic violence will not be tolerated in Arkansas" when he is governor.

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