Wednesday, May 12, 2010

TOP STORY > >Bryles seeks Berry’s seat

Leader editor in chief

Sen. Steve Bryles of Blytheville is one of six Democrats running for Congress in the First District to succeed Rep. Marion Berry (D-Gillett).

The other candidates are Rep. David Cook, former Sen. Tim Wooldridge, Chad Causey, Terry Green and Ben Ponder. Two Republicans, Princella Smith and Rick Craw-ford, are seeking their party’s nomination in the May 18 primaries.

Bryles, a cotton dealer, has represented Senate Dist. 15 in the Arkansas Senate since 2001, which includes Mississippi and Poinsett counties.

His committee memberships include Public Education; Agriculture, Economic Develop-ment and Forestry; Joint Budget and Legislative Council.

In 2005, Bryles received the Distinguished Service Award from the Arkansas Municipal League, was honored for distinguished service by Arkansas State University and was the recipient of the “Friend Award” from the Arkansas Association for Gifted Educators and Administrators.

He was also recognized by the Arkansas Education Association for “outstanding leadership on behalf of public education” and has time and again been selected as a legislative champion for children by Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families.

Born in Piggott, Bryles at-tended public schools in Star City, Osceola and Blytheville and majored in agricultural economics at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville.

A member of First Presbyterian Church in Blytheville, Bryles and his wife, Pamela, have one son and two daughters.

Why are you running for Congress?

Our economy is hurting. People are worried about their jobs and their futures. I know what that’s like. I’ve struggled to make a living in the cotton business. I have three children – two in college. I worry about how to pay for their education and what kind of opportunities they’ll find when they get out.

I’m running for Arkansas’ First congressional seat being vacated by the retiring Marion Berry because I believe that my deep roots in the First District, my background in agri-business and my record in helping create jobs and improving our schools can best serve the people in our area.

My family roots in the First District are deep. My great-great grandfather settled in Hickory Plains in Prairie County in the 1850s. I have family scattered across the district which gives me a strong sense of the every day, meat and potatoes issues that are important.

My record reflects that I’ve created jobs, brought new and innovative ideas to the public education arena, and as state senator helped build consensus on tough issues facing the state.

I have the experience and skills to be an effective congressman for the people of Arkansas.

Who is supporting your candidacy?

I have been encouraged by the response to my candidacy as I have campaigned across the district. The folks I meet on Main Street, in courthouses, at factories and in coffee shops are responsive to and supportive of my candidacy.

I have not been hand selected by a politician to run. I am running because I believe I have the experience, skills and temperament to be an effective congressman.

Will serving in the legislature prepare you for Congress?

I believe my 10 years in the Arkansas Senate has given me an understanding of the legislative process that will be valuable; but more importantly, I have developed consensus building skills in the legislature. I have been voted an outstanding legislator by the Arkansas Democrat Gazette and received the Outstanding Leadership Award from the Arkansas Education Association on behalf of public education.

In addition, I received the Legislative Champion for Children from the Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families and the Distinguished Service Award from the Arkansas Municipal League. Congress is in desperate need of more consensus builders and leaders; I believe I have proven that I am both.

What makes you different from your Democratic opponents and your potential GOP opponent?

I bring a unique set of experience and skills to this campaign. I am the only candidate with a combination of agri-business background, job creation and education reform experience and a track record of success building consensus on tough legislative issues.

How will you help Arkan-sas if you’re elected to Congress?

My first priority will be to get the economy on track and to create jobs in Arkansas. Beyond jobs and the economy, I will work to insure that we get spending under control, put the brakes on Wall Street greed, improve our schools, give farmers the tools needed to be successful and work tirelessly to help restore faith in government.

I have a record of creating jobs. Working with local and state officials, we created incentives to attract new jobs and encourage existing companies to expand. Our efforts have brought 2,700 high-paying jobs to the Delta, with hundreds more on the way. I have written a three step plan to grow jobs and get the economy moving in Arkansas. The plan calls for 1) establishing a federal Quick Action Job Development Closing Fund; 2) encouraging the use of clean, abundant, Arkansas-produced natural gas, and 3) deploying high-speed Internet to rural areas.

Why did you get into public service?

To give back to my community and to the state I so dearly love. I wanted to make a positive difference. I believe strongly in participatory democracy so I offered myself as a candidate for state Senate. The good people of Mississippi and Poinsett counties elected me twice. I am now term limited in the Arkansas Senate so I am offering my experience and skills to the people of the First District as I seek to represent them in Congress.

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

It seems politics have gotten progressively nasty over the last few years. Congress is full of people who seem to have agendas that are not consistent with the needs of their district. Too much media grabbing, posturing and partisan bickering takes place.

One of my stronger skills is consensus building. In the state Senate, I brought together people and organizations with differing philosophies to work for the greater good.

How close are you politically to Cong. Marion Berry?

For the past 14 years, Cong. Berry has worked hard for the people of the First District. I respect him for his willingness to serve and his tireless work. As a state senator, I have worked closely with Berry and his staff on agriculture, education and economic development issues.

I am not his hand-picked successor, but if I prevail in this campaign for Congress, I will seek his advice and counsel.

What can you do about health care?

The American health-care system is broken. Too many people who need care are not getting it, insurance companies have too much influence on medical decisions and the cost is skyrocketing out of control.

The bill Congress passed makes some improvements: eli-minating pre-existing conditions, closing the Medicare donut hole for seniors, and allowing children to stay on their parents’ insurance until age 26. Even with those improvements, I am concerned about the cost of health-care reform and whether it will actually limit access to care when Medicare reimbursement rate cuts are imposed.

I don’t have all the answers. I will work hard to gain an understanding and the knowledge to fix the system so that all Americans can have access to affordable health care.

What kind of legislation will you support in Congress?

My first priority will be to focus on legislation that gets the economy moving and creates jobs. I will support bills that rein in spending and help balance the budget. In the Arkansas Senate, I championed education reform. Education is the cornerstone for community and economic development, so I will continue to focus on that policy arena.

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

I don’t have all the answers on the impact of health-care reform. I have been a small businessman my entire adult life, so I am sensitive to the ramifications of the legislation. In these tough economic times, the last thing small businesses and families need are higher bills. I will do all in my power to insure that the financial burden of health-care reform is not placed on the backs of small business and individuals.

How do we restart the economy?

There is no magic bullet to jumpstarting the economy. There are many interconnected components for a healthy, stable economy. Job creation will be my number-one priority. Additionally, we must restore consumer confidence in spending.

Consumer spending on things like houses, automobiles and other durable goods will help jumpstart manufacturing, which in turn creates jobs.

Again, I have written a three- step plan to getting the economy moving in Arkansas. 1) Establish a federal Quick Action Job Development Closing Fund; 2) encourage the use of clean, abundant, Arkansas-produced natural gas, and 3) deploy high-speed Internet to rural areas and provide incentives to purchase a computer for those who cannot afford one.

What does your family think about you running?

My wife Pam and our three children are supportive. Two of my girls are away at college and cannot campaign with me on a daily basis, but they’ve called and sent texts to all their friends in the district. I am blessed to have family all across the district who are working hard to get me elected. My father, Mark Bryles, is a retired county agent. Over the years, he developed friends in virtually every county in the First District. His network has been helpful. I have a brother who is a farm-implement dealer in Prairie County who has been working hard to help me reach folks in the agriculture community.

Will you support Little Rock Air Force Base if you’re elected?

Wholeheartedly! I understand LRAFB’s importance to the community, state and nation. Little Rock Air Force Base is vital to our economic future.