Wednesday, April 21, 2010

TOP STORY >> Berry’s chief of staff runs for seat

By GARRICK FELDMAN
Leader executive editor

Christopher Chad Causey of Jonesboro is one of six Democrats running for Congress in the First District to succeed Rep. Marion Berry (D-Gillett). The other candidates are state Sen. Steve Bryles, state Rep. David Cook, former state Sen. Tim Wooldridge, Terry Green and Ben Ponder.

They face off in the Democratic primary on May 18. The winner will run against either Princella Smith or Rick Crawford, who are vying in the Republican primary.

Causey, 33, has a bachelor of arts degree from the University of Arkansas and a law degree from Catholic University of America in Washington. He has been Berry’s chief of staff since 2006 and legislative assistant since 2001. Berry has endorsed Causey as his successor.

Why are you running for Congress?

I am running for Congress because I believe our country is at a crossroads.  Our country is trillions of dollars in debt and waging two wars.  While Washington politicians bicker about what to do, everyday Arkansans are suffering.  They want answers to their questions; they want someone who will work hard on their behalf.  I believe I am that candidate.  I’m ready to get to work finding common-sense solutions that won’t increase our debt.

Why are you a Democrat?

I’m proud to be an Arkansas Democrat.  I promise to protect Social Security and Medicare. I’ll fight hard to expand the GI Bill and make sure that our servicemen and women are taken care of before, during and after deployment.  I’ll continue to help Arkansas farm families to produce the safest, most affordable food supply in the world. 

How would you have voted on the health-care bill?

I couldn’t have supported the bill.  Now that it is passed, I’m ready to get to work improving it on day one.

What can we do about health care? What kind of legislation would you support in Congress?

We can’t accomplish anything unless we get costs down, and get them down now.  Everyone agrees that reform is needed, but I believe we ought to focus on getting it right, rather than getting it right now. 

We should allow the secretary of Health and Human Services to negotiate with drug companies to ensure Americans are getting their medicines at the lowest price. We should eliminate unreasonable caps on coverage and restrict insurance companies from denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions. 

If elected to this office, I promise to put the health-care priorities of the First District first.

When it comes to health-care costs and taxes, what can we do to lessen the burden on individuals and small businesses?

So many jobs in Arkansas come in the form of small businesses.  I don’t believe in taking punitive measures when it comes to health-care costs or taxes. 

Instead, we must use incentive-based legislation to make sure employees are covered and small businesses aren’t so heavily burdened that they have to close shop. 

As I’ve said before, we must focus on getting costs down before we focus on anything else.  There are steps we can take to improve portability and management that won’t put an undue burden on small business owners.

How do we restart the economy?

We must invest in education and infrastructure. If Arkansas is going to attract jobs, we must have the cutting-edge, knowledgeable workforce that companies are looking for, and we’ve got to be able to support those companies when they get here.

Who is supporting your candidacy?

In addition to the thousands of Arkansans who have supported my campaign, I’ve garnered the endorsement of Cong. Berry.

How will your background prepare you for Congress?

I’ve spent the last decade traveling to and working for every county in this district.  I know the priorities and concerns of Arkansans from Baxter County to Lonoke County, and everywhere in between. I won’t have a learning curve, and I’ll be ready to fight for the priorities of the First District on day one.

What makes you different from the Democratic and Republican candidates?

I believe I’m the only candidate with the energy, experience, and common-sense leadership to affect change in Washington. I’ve got new ideas, and the know-how to implement them.  I’m the only candidate that’s worked throughout the First Congressional District, and the only one familiar with the concerns that Arkansans are facing. 

How will you help Arkansas if you’re elected to Congress?

As I’ve said, I want to invest in education and infrastructure, so that we can create jobs and improve our economy. 

I also believe that Arkansas can lead the way in securing energy independence for America.  Small windmills have already gone up in eastern Arkansas, and are capable of supplying energy to homes and businesses everywhere.  Arkansas State University is currently working on converting various cellulosic materials in biofuels; that’s the kind of research and development our government should invest in.  Our energy solutions will spring from a mix of current and emerging technologies, and I believe the only way to encourage that growth is through incentive-based legislation, not punitive “cap-and-tax” based programs.

As chief-of-staff for Cong. Berry, I have worked with farmers on two separate farm bills, working to create an adequate production safety net, and ensure Arkansas farmers continue producing the safest food and fiber supply in the world.

I believe in protecting this precious way of life, and believe that no one else will work as hard as I will on behalf of our farmers and ranchers. 

I believe agriculture disaster programs need reform, and that one of the strongest actions that the U.S. could take in protecting agriculture is opening the large market to Cuba. 

We have a choice.  We can continue to blame someone else for not solving our problems, or we can roll up our sleeves and get back to work.  Let’s rein in spending and balance the budget; let’s get Americans back to work and generate economic growth.

Has the political scene changed much in the past few months?  Will that help you?

I think that Arkansans in the First District are ready for their officials to stop the bickering and get back to work.   I’m ready to roll up my sleeves and figure out common-sense solutions to the problems facing Arkansans today.

Congress has approved millions of dollars worth of projects for Little Rock Air Force Base. Will you support the base if you’re elected?

Without hesitation.  Our men and women in uniform deserve the very best that we can provide.  While I don’t take sole credit for the First Congressional District’s successes over the past few years, I am honored to have played a small role in securing $10 million for the new Multi-Purpose Education Center for Jacksonville Air Force Base, as well as helping secure the monies for Cabot’s new armory.  I understand what it takes to accomplish these projects, and I’m looking forward to future investments we’ll make for our servicemen and women.

What does your family think about your running for office?

My fiancĂ© and her family are supportive and working hard every day.  I couldn’t do this without their love and support.  I’d like to think my mother is proud of me. She raised me and my brothers by herself, working two and sometimes three jobs. She gave me the finest examples of hard work and sacrifice, and she knows I’ll put that strong work ethic to good use fighting for the priorities of Arkansans in the First District.

Tell us about your background.

I was born and raised in Jonesboro. I went to school at South Elementary, Annie Camp Junior High, and Jonesboro High School. 

My grandfather started a small business with a $50 loan, and 65 years later, my family still owns our music store.  My mother, who still teaches at Jonesboro High School, showed me the value of hard work and sacrifice.  To provide for me and my brothers, she took one and sometimes two extra jobs, hanging wallpaper or selling real estate.

I’ve worked to help provide for myself since a very early age.  I only left my job sacking groceries to attend college.  I worked my way through on Pell Grants, student loans, and part-time work.  Early on, I learned the value of balancing your own checkbook.

My life changed forever when I was given the opportunity to go to work with Cong. Berry.  I started at the bottom of the ladder, driving the congressman across all 26 counties and hearing stories of those who have struggled to make ends meet, whether it was farmers fighting nature, veterans fighting for their due benefits, or seniors choosing between paying a light bill and a prescription refill.

In time, I worked my way up to Washington and four years ago I became Congressman Berry’s chief-of-staff.  I have worked with farmers on two farm bills, working to ensure an adequate safety net for food and fiber production.  I have worked with our institutes of higher education to create programs that train highly skilled local workforces. 

I have worked with small businesses that know how to balance their checkbooks better than the federal government does. 

In the last decade, I have worked for the people of the First Congressional District. I have worked for and traveled to all 26 counties. I have been in touch with the people of eastern and north Arkansas and understand their concerns.

I have never been handed a thing in my life and I don’t expect to be handed the public’s trust – it is sacred and must be earned.  I won’t promise to have every answer to every challenge we face but I will promise you that no one will listen longer, and no one will work harder or take this responsibility more seriously than I will. 

The First District of Arkansas can’t afford to miss a beat and I have the energy, experience and common-sense values to continue to put Arkansas first. 

In the coming weeks and months, I will be traveling to your county and your communities to listen to your concerns.