Tuesday, December 02, 2008

TOP STORY > >Lonoke GOP does well, hopes for U.S. rebound

Leader staff writer

Whether it was the war, the economy or the racial and cultural diversity of the country that led to the victory that will send a Democrat to the White House in January to work with a predominantly Democratic Congress, local Republicans remain upbeat about the future of their party.

Sen. John McCain easily carried Lonoke County and much of the state. County Republicans control the sheriff’s office, Cabot mayor’s office and city council and kept House Dist. 48 seat in the Republican column.

Though many political commentators say the future of the GOP is dismal, Lonoke County Republicans say they are certain the party will make a comeback nationally if party leaders return to the conservative platform of Ronald Reagan that made it strong.

“It’s pretty evident to me that the national party got away from the roots of conservatism that Ronald Reagan established in the late ’70s and early ’80s,” said former state Rep. Randy Minton of Ward. “There was no conservative message.”

“They call it a big defeat,” Minton added. “I think the time was right for a Democrat to win because of the war, because of the economy.”

But McCain was not a true conservative, Minton said. He received the Republican nomination because he had paid his dues and because he had the support of Republican “elitists” who don’t support a conservative platform against abortion and for limited government, personal liberties and lower taxes, Minton said.

And since McCain didn’t have a strong conservative platform, he didn’t energize the conservative Republicans who could have helped him win, Minton said.

“We’ve got to take back our party leadership from town to town, county to county, state to state and try to take it back at the national level,” he said. “I don’t know if there’s enough of us left or not.”

“It’s the economy,” said Tim Lemons, an engineer who won a seat on the Lonoke County Quorum Court during the Republican primary in May.

“People tend to vote with their pocketbooks,” he said. “If the economy hadn’t been so dismal over the past three or four months, people wouldn’t have turned away from the Republican Party the way they did.

“They’ll come back. It’s just a matter of time,” he said.

Cary Hobbs, a member of the Lonoke County Republican Committee who serves on the Cabot Water and Wastewater Commission, agrees that McCain lost the election because he didn’t have the support of conservative Republicans. And he didn’t have their support because he voted too often with the Democrats.

“We didn’t have a candidate with a conservative message,” Hobbs said. “If you’re going to a conservative, be a conservative.”
McCain lost because “Obama presented himself better and voters wanted to be a part of something new,” he said.

Eddie Joe Williams, the Republican mayor of Cabot who ran afoul of the Lonoke County Re-publican Committee in 2007 by refusing to veto a council vote to hold independent elections for city offices, said that although he considers himself a conservative, he believes that most Americans are “middle-of-the-road kind of people” who are much more interested in the price of gas and other necessities than gay marriages and abortions.

No doubt many Americans have been unhappy with President George Bush, he said. But that doesn’t mean the Republican Party won’t survive.

“Politics is like the economy,” the mayor said. “It comes and goes. But right now, it is still alive and well in Cabot, Arkansas.”