Friday, February 12, 2010

TOP STORY >> Candidate dips toes in Cabot’s political water

Leader staff writer

A black woman who is a Republican candidate for Congress in the First District was making rounds this week and stopped off in Cabot to see if the political atmosphere there favored her campaign.

Although she didn’t get an endorsement from Mayor Eddie Joe Williams, and she doesn’t plan to announce her candidacy until Feb. 20, Princella Smith said the polls say a Republican can win this race and she will be the one who does it.

Smith, 26, is a native of Wynne, where her mother works as the vice principal at the high school and her father is a minister. A graduate of Ouachita Baptist University with a degree in political science, Smith has spent most of her time in Washington since graduating.

She has worked for former House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s think tank, American Solutions for Winning the Future, becoming the voice that repeated his slogan promoting drilling for oil in Alaska, “Drill here, drill now, pay less.”

That job gave her national media attention with regular appearances on major networks including Fox News and CNN, where she debated energy experts and Democratic strategists years her senior.

In 2009, Smith went to work as communications director for freshman Rep. Anh “Joseph” Cao (pronounced Gow) of Louisiana.

But she resigned after Rep. Marion Berry (D-Gillett) announced last month that he will not seek re-election. She decided to explore the possibility of running for the seat.

Smith said her campaign will focus on jobs, education, healthcare and national security.

“Arkansas’ unemployment rate is 7.6 percent,” she said. “We’ve got to find new ways to bring jobs to the state.”

Smith said there is no excuse for the disparity in the quality of education among school districts in the state. Cabot and Wynne have good school districts, she said, but not all can make the same claim.

“We need an intense examination of our education system,” she said. “There are some schools that are run quite efficiently.

Take Wynne; that’s one of those, but 20 minutes down the road, you have problems.”

Smith said Arkansas schools need better mentoring programs for administrators, more teacher accountability and better technology.

Money is not the problem, she said, because America spends more on education than any other country. What the system needs is forward-looking administrators and authority figures.

Heath care? What is needed is a comprehensive program that will take care of all those who need help, Smith said: the elderly, veterans, single parents and families.

National security? Smith said Arkansas has deployed thousands of troops to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and she wants to ensure that they are given all the resources needed to do their jobs and protect the country.

Smith said Washington has lost touch with average Americans and no longer understands how they live.

Although the First District hasn’t elected a Republican since the late 1800s, Smith said she believes this election will be more about solutions than political parties.

And although her youth could work against her, Smith said it won’t stop her.

“I fully plan on winning if I jump in,” she said.