Friday, October 10, 2014

TOP STORY >> Contest gets mean, nasty

Leader senior staff writer

What started off as a warm, fuzzy, positive campaign full of folksy charm, the Second District congressional race between former North Little Rock Mayor Pat Hays, a Democrat, and banker French Hill, a Republican, has descended into one of the nastier races in the state, with ads by both candidates implying misbehavior by the other where there appears to be none.

Hill did not bribe disgraced state Treasurer Martha Schoffner for $7 million in state deposits in his bank. Hays did not raise his own salary 20 times, and his administration was by most accounts a success.

The National Rifle Association has endorsed Hill, he told a small gathering at Fort Thompson Sporting Goods in Sherwood on Thursday.

“This is a key point of contrast,” according to Hill. “The NRA afforded me an A rating. My opponent has been awarded an F rating.”

By way of that contrast, Hays, an NRA member, says — while he would oppose any law that would take guns away from law-abiding citizens — he favors background checks on commercial gun sales to help keep guns out of the hands of criminals.

Hill, the founder and CEO of Delta Trust & Bank, says that for the past 20 years, he’s been “a businessman and job creator,” a champion of second amendment rights and that he served as a senior policy advisor for President George H.W. Bush as a deputy assistant secretary of the Treasury.

Hill, his wife, Martha, and their two children, Liza and Payne, live in Little Rock.

Hays, six-term North Little Rock mayor, says he championed construction of Verizon Arena, Dickey-Stephens Ball-park and attracted a Caterpillar factory to North Little Rock, creating hundreds of local jobs.

The U.S. Army Reserve captain is a former North Little Rock assistant city attorney, chief counsel for the state Secretary of State and a former state representative.

He graduated from North Little Rock High School and graduated from the University of Arkansas Law School at Fayetteville.

“The rancor and discord and dysfunctionality (in Washington) is in contrast to what we do in North Little Rock,” Hays says.

While raising the Arkansas minimum wage is not an issue for Congress, Hays says it’s a popular notion, he supports it. The state Secretary of State — a Republican — has certified the petitions to put that issue on the ballot.


Hays says he got into the race after retiring as mayor because the Republicans shut down the government a year ago.

“That tipped the scale and put me in the race,” he said.

Hays and his wife, Linda, a retired elementary school teacher, have three children and three grandchildren. He attends Park Hill Baptist Church.


Libertarian Deborah Standiford, 44, who has remained pretty much invisible in this expensive, high-octane race, has a platform that includes demilitarization of police forces, repealing the Affordable Care Act in favor of health savings accounts and free competition among insurance companies across state lines and legalization or decriminalization of marijuana. She says that would help eliminate or relieve prison overcrowding and save the state a lot of money.

She would eliminate the Patriot Act, the National Security Administration and refocus foreign policy on national defense.

Standiford, 44, is a part time graphic artist. She is the married mother of two.

“I would remove the defense of marriage act. The federal government shouldn’t be in charge of licensing marriage,” she said, “but, if it is, they need to treat all people equally.

She would work to eliminate the national deficit and reduce the debt by eliminating the departments of Commerce, Education, Energy, Interior and HUD.

“I believe the Arkansas voters deserve another choice in this race,” Standiford said.


Hill said, “I’ll put a laser focus on getting the economy growing...Jobs and economic growth are the No. 1 issue facing the second district. We have fewer people working here than we did in July 2007.”

He said his most important goals included “simplifying and reducing the burden of our tax system and our regulatory system and any regulation that is making it harder to employ people.

“Across the board, the government is trying to do too much with one-size-fits-all solutions,” Hill said. “I’d like to see more solutions pushed back to state and local governments.

“I think the first substantive issue that needs to be addressed is jobs,” said Hays. “Arkansas needs more jobs, and we need better-paying jobs.

“In North Little Rock, we got rid of unnecessary regulations and cut wasteful spending, and created an environment where business could grow. Washington needs to take the same approach. I think that there is a great deal of work on that front that can be done on a bipartisan basis.


“The first thing I will do when I get to Congress is to find a Republican congressman and make a friend,” Hays said. “I got into this race when the government shut down one year ago. I was disappointed and fed up with the gridlock and the discord in Washington. At city hall, there’s no such thing as Republican crime or Democratic garbage. As mayor, I got things done by working with other people, and I’ll work with anyone who wants to solve problems.

“I balanced 24 budgets, cut the city’s debt in half and worked to create and attract good-paying jobs. We built Verizon Arena and Dickey-Stephens Ballpark, expanded our parks and trails systems. I worked hard in partnership with the city council, our state government and local officials. That’s the kind of thing I want to do Washington — working to solve problems and putting the next generation ahead of the next election.”


Hill calls Obamacare (the Affordable Care Act) a $2.2 trillion mistake and says he would roll it back. As to how or whether to provide health care insurance to the more than 200,000 working class Arkansans now enrolled through the state’s Private Option or federal health care market, he said “We need to repeal and replace it with reforms that lower healthcare costs for all Arkansans. We need more market-based and more individual solutions.”

About the Private Option, Hill said “All states can expand Medicaid any way they want, but I question the expense. We need more market-based competition and fewer mandates.

“We must also embrace reforms that reward quality healthcare, encourage healthy living and minimize waste through patient choice, information, transparent pricing and healthcare ownership,” Hill said. “We need a private insurance market that allows for flexibility, portability and choice. We must reform Medicaid so that governors have flexibility to control state budgets and manage high-impact patients who drive up costs for local providers and federal/state officials. We also need medical malpractice reform.”

Hays said, “I would not have voted for the Affordable Care Act, but I think the best approach now is to fix the problems with the law. In terms of fixes, I would support, there are a number, but I’ll focus on three.


Hays said, first, Medicare should be allowed to negotiate for lower drug prices.

Second, he said, we should remove the “ridiculous” paperwork requirements for doctors.

Third, he said, we should repeal the medical device tax. “Here in Arkansas, the Private Option was an example of bipartisanship, with a Democratic Governor working with the Republican-led General Assembly to find a solution to a problem. I’d like to take the same bipartisan approach to Washington,” Hays said.

He promises to work on getting more education and job training programs for veterans.

Hays also says he’ll fight to protect farmers, ranchers, cattlemen and loggers.

“We need to invest in renewable energy like wind, solar and bio-fuels, while also taking full advantage of our abundant domestic resources, like oil and natural gas,” he said. Hays strongly supports completion of the Keystone pipeline.

A “skyrocketing national debt” is unacceptable, Hays noted.

“Washington needs to learn how to balance its budget the same way we do,” he said.

Hill said, “We need a cultural change in which the federal government is a smaller, less significant and much less expensive and intrusive part of everyone’s lives.”

He would enact a balanced-budget amendment to the Constitution and a line-item presidential veto power that could pass constitutional muster.

These types of reforms are a necessary antidote to Congress’s failures to exercise self-control, Hill said.

“I support policies that help hard-working Americans save for retirement and health care independent of government aid. We must enhance 401(Ks), IRAs and health savings accounts so seniors can have security and peace of mind. However, these meaningful improvements will only matter if we control Washington’s spending addiction.” Hill also wants to strengthen social security and Medicare.