Tuesday, April 22, 2014

TOP STORY >> Huckabee backs Byrd for House

Leader senior staff writer

With House Speaker Davy Carter (R-Cabot) term limited, a pair of conservative Republicans will meet in the May 20 primary seeking the Dist. 43 House seat, which represents Cabot and surrounding areas. The winner will be unopposed in the November general election.

Darlene Byrd, 55, a nurse practitioner and longtime health-care advocate, faces Tim Lemons, a civil engineer who has served three terms on the Lonoke County Quorum Court.

“As a nurse practitioner and former teacher, I’ve been an advocate all my professional life,” Byrd said Tuesday.

The owner of APN Healthcare in Cabot, she’s been doing that ever since she became a nurse practitioner and running for office “is the next step as an advocate,” she said. Former Gov. Mike Huckabee endorsed Byrd this week, while the National Rifle Association endorsed Lemons.

“I have always enjoyed solving problems,” said Lemons. “That’s the main reason that I am a professional engineer. My goal with both my profession and in the political field has and will be to find the least expensive solution to a problem.”

“In light of Obamacare and how it’s implemented, healthcare will be a major topic for the next several sessions,” Byrd said.

“Just giving someone a card doesn’t give them access to health care,” she said. “You have to remove regulatory impediments.”

“This is the next step,” she said. “Health-care policies will be a major issue for us. … I have the foundation to address those issues.”

A former math teacher, she said she opposes Common Core, but not high standards or developing critical-thinking skills early in life. She says she doesn’t want to see teachers’ hands tied so they can’t develop individualized lessons and teaching strategies.

Byrd says she is against gay marriage and abortion, will fight for lower taxes and to simplify the tax code and will “push back” against an overreaching federal government.

Lowering taxes is a priority for Lemons in the next session. “We are one of the highest taxed states in the U.S.” He says he’ll fight Obamacare, uphold Second Amendment rights and limit federal government involvement in state government. That’s why he can’t support Common Core curriculum, he said.

Carter was one of the architects and prime movers of the private option health insurance that has now enrolled more than 200,000 people in Arkansas, most of them working poor.

But neither Lemons nor Byrd is committed to maintaining it.

Asked how she would have voted, she said, “I lost a lot of sleep over private option. As it stands, it’s hard to support. It has some things that could hurt access to health care.”

She said she understands it’s already over budget.

“I would have voted against the private option, both in 2013 and 2014,” Lemons said.

The benchmark numbers provided by the Department of Human Services were flawed, he said. Nearly twice as many people qualified for the program as estimated earlier, he said.

“Left unchecked, this program will be a financial burden for the taxpayers of our state.”

“Fortunately, our legislature has the opportunity to review the private option program annually. It is my hope that common sense will be used to get a handle on this in future sessions. It all comes down to whether this program is sound financially,” Lemons said.

“I do have compassion for those who are elderly or disabled and we must provide them with the health care that they deserve. My problem is with the people who abuse the system. Possibly a time limitation would be in order to limit the continued abuse of the system,” Lemons said.


Byrd said she was pleased to get Huckabee’s enthusiastic endorsement.

“I hope it reaches out to people who don’t know me as well, but know and respect him, so they feel more comfortable voting for me,” Byrd said.

Lemons called the endorsement “a non-issue,” saying Huckabee was a friend of his as well, but he did not seek the endorsement of the out-of-state resident.

He said the endorsement he received from the National Rifle Association “is much more relevant,” as are the support he said he’s received from the Arkansas Medical Society and state Board of Realtors.

No shrinking violet on Second Amendment rights, Byrd says she has a concealed- carry permit.


While on the Lonoke County Quorum Court, Lemons has served as chairman of the budget committee and was active on the jail committee that built a new $5.5 million Lonoke County Detention Center in Lonoke.

As for her qualifications for the position, Byrd, who has been appointed to a number of boards, including the National Advisory Committee on Rural Health, says she has the knowledge on which to build.

“Anything worth doing is worth doing right,” she said, “and I have the habit of continuing education.” She has four degrees — three in nursing, one in education.

As she works around the state, filling in for doctors, advanced nurses and nurse practitioners at clinics that have a temporary need, she says mandated electronic medical records are discouraging older doctors and driving some out of the business.

Lemons says his platform is a “Republican for Common Sense Government,” and he best represents the typical Cabot resident.

“I have been married for 31 years to my high school sweetheart. I have been a resident of Cabot for over 20 years, and my children were raised in Cabot and graduated from the Cabot school system.

“I believe that our churches are the foundation of our community,” said Lemons, a member of First Baptist Church for 22 years.

He’s been active in several community groups, such as CASA and Open Arms Shelter, Special Olympics, Race for the Cure and others.