Saturday, November 01, 2014

SPORTS STORY >> Fourth-down score dooms Panthers

Leader sportswriter

They came close, but the Cabot Panthers couldn’t pull off the upset against Jonesboro at Panther Stadium on Friday, as the visiting Golden Hurricane escaped the 7A/6A-East Conference matchup with a 24-23 win.

Thanks to three field goals by Christian Underwood, Cabot led 17-14 at halftime and 23-17 early in the fourth quarter, but a Jonesboro touchdown on fourth down with just over five minutes to play ended up being enough for the Golden Hurricane to get the win and secure the No. 1 playoff spot from the 6A-East.

“The defense played well,” said Cabot coach Mike Malham. “The offense missed some opportunities. We had a couple of scoring opportunities early in the third quarter that came back to haunt us, and they (Jonesboro) stayed in the game. They’re a good football team.

“Their two losses were against North Little Rock and Conway, two teams that beat us. So we knew it was going to be a dogfight.”

Jonesboro (7-2, 5-1) was the first to score, and it happened on the Canes’ second offensive series. On that drive, Jonesboro started at its own 20-yard line, and marched 80 yards down the field in 12 plays, scoring on a 28-yard pass from senior quarterback Carson Coats to senior receiver Lamar Haynes.

The PAT was good, giving Jonesboro a 7-0 lead with 5:17 left in the opening quarter. Cabot (5-4, 3-3), though, answered with a touchdown of its own. The Panthers started at their own 38, and scored after the nine-play drive was capped with a 5-yard run up the middle by junior fullback Kolton Eads.

Underwood’s PAT knotted up the score at seven apiece with 1:35 left in the first quarter. Jonesboro turned the ball over on downs on the ensuing possession, but Cabot gave it right back on the very next snap, and Jonesboro took advantage.

The Panther turnover set the Canes up at the Cabot 40, and on the third play of the drive, Coats connected with junior receiver Ke’dren Brunson up the middle of the field for a 24-yard touchdown strike. The PAT was good, giving the visitors a 14-7 advantage with 10:59 to play in the opening half.

Cabot answered with a three-play scoring drive of its own. After carries by Eads and Jalen Hemphill gained minimal yards, sophomore Jarrod Barnes, who played with a cast on his right hand because of a broken thumb he suffered in week seven, picked up a bouncing lateral pass and dashed 69 yards down the Jonesboro sideline for another Cabot touchdown.

Underwood’s PAT tied it up at 14-14 with 9:25 remaining in the half. Underwood set the halftime margin with three seconds remaining in the half after he drilled the first of his three field goals, this one from 20 yards out.

Cabot had a chance to get on the board again on the first possession of the second half, but failed to convert on fourth and 2 inside the Jonesboro 5-yard line, which gave the ball back to the Canes on downs.

“We probably should’ve kicked another field goal down there instead of going for it when we were up three (points) at the time. I thought we had something that would work and it didn’t, and they (Jonesboro) stayed in the game.”

Jonesboro tied the score at 17-17 with a 40-yard field goal that lined through the uprights with 2:09 remaining in the third quarter. Underwood, though, answered with a 26-yard field goal on the Panthers’ ensuing drive, which gave Cabot a 20-17 lead.

Jonesboro went three-and-out on its next possession, and Cabot put together a six-play drive that ended with Underwood’s third field goal, this one from 30 yards away with 8:54 to play.

That gave the Panthers a 23-17 lead, but Jonesboro answered on its next offensive series. After starting from their own 32-yard line, the Canes put together a 13-play drive that was capped with a 16-yard, play-action touchdown pass on fourth and 2, and the PAT set the final score.

Cabot responded with what looked to be another promising drive. The Panthers started on their own 25, and moved the ball into Jonesboro territory before a motion penalty pushed the Panther offense back 5 yards on first down.

On the next snap, quarterback Jess Reed, who took over QB duties for the first time last week, stepping in for the injured Barnes, went left on an option play when everyone else went right, and as a result, no one was there for the pitch, except a pair of Jonesboro defenders.

After the turnover, Jonesboro picked up a first down after Cabot spent its final timeout, and ran out the clock.

“Jess, he practices hard and competes hard, and I don’t know, he just went the wrong way,” Malham said. “Those things happen – nothing you can do about it now, but I was proud of the way we played.

“We’re young still, and I think we got a chance, if we keep improving, maybe when we hit the playoffs in a couple of weeks we’ll have a chance to compete there.”

Despite coming out on the losing end, Cabot outgained Jonesboro in offensive yardage. The Panthers finished with 351 yards, while the Golden Hurricane finished with 281.

Barnes led the rushing attack with 115 yards and one touchdown on just seven carries. Eads had 26 carries for 93 yards and a touchdown, and Hemphill had eight carries for 71 yards. Reed finished the night 2 for 5 passing for 66 yards. Both completions went to senior tight end Brett Frazier.

Coats finished the game 16 of 27 passing for 174 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions. He also had eight carries for 46 yards.

The Panthers will look to rebound next Thursday against Searcy at home in the final regular-season game of 2014. That conference game will kickoff at 7 p.m.

SPORTS STORY >> Jacksonville Lighthouse defeats Owls

Leader sports editor

The Jacksonville Lighthouse Charter School boys got their third win of the season on Tuesday of this week, but also lost for the first time this season on Thursday.

The Wolves beat Sherwood’s Abundant Life Academy 67-42 on Tuesday, then fell 69-47 to the 4-0 Wonderview Daredevils in Hattieville.

“It was crazy,” said Lighthouse coach Kelvin Parker. It was one of those nights where we couldn’t get anything to fall. Plus Wonderview is a pretty good team. They were in the state championship game last year and they have a really strong program. It’s definitely a basketball town.”

Evidence of the Wolves’ poor shooting can be found in the free-throw percentage. Parker’s squad, which is a guard-oriented team that typically shoots fairly well, hit just 3 of 21 foul shots.

When shots wouldn’t fall, Parker’s squad got anxious and began forcing situations and taking more low percentage shots – falling farther and farther behind.

Point guard Jordan McNair led the Wolves with 20 points in the loss while Zack Bobo added nine and Daeshawn Dickson scored eight.

Forcing shots was also something the team struggled with early in Tuesday’s game, but it got back into rhythm in the second half.

The Wolves and Owls played close for most of the first half. McNair hit a three pointer at the buzzer to end the second quarter that put Lighthouse up by 10 at intermission.

“We got off kind of slow and didn’t shoot that well early against Abundant Life,” Parker said. “We tried to force shots and weren’t running the offense. We settled down in the second half and got going a little better. Overall I think we played a really good game. We shared the ball well, especially in the second half, and that’s what ultimately got us over the hump.”

Bobo scored 21 to lead the Wolves on Tuesday while McNair scored 18 and added 13 assists. The week’s results leave the Lighthouse boys 3-1 on the season.

The girls lost both games, their first two of the season. They fell 57-16 on Tuesday and 46-15 on Thursday.

Parker, who also coaches the girls, said a loss of several players from last year could result in a rebuilding season this year. Three players transferred and another left the team for undisclosed reasons.

“It may be tough at times this season for the girls,” Parker said. “But they’re working hard and they’re going to keep getting better and better.”

1A Lighthouse doesn’t play again until Friday when it travels to Class 6A Sheridan.

SPORTS STORY >> Red Devils do their job

Special to The Leader

It was a huge game at Jan Crow Stadium Friday night when Jacksonville hosted the Mills Comets. A win would keep the Red Devils in the 5A-Central Conference playoff picture. And on Senior Night with the pressure on, Jacksonville came through with the hard-fought 31-7 victory to even its conference record at 3-3. A win next week will give the Red Devils the number four seed in the playoffs.

“A good win, to finish the game, and the kids played hard,” said Jacksonville head coach Barry Hickingbotham. “Our seniors, being Senior Night, just rose up and led our football team. We played good, and our defense was solid. They’ve got a great tailback over there, the Peters kid. We held him pretty well. He’s been averaging a touchdown over 70 yards a game, and we stopped that tonight. I’m proud of the defense and the way they played tonight.

“Next week we get one more chance to play, one more chance to play when it means something. We’re excited for the opportunity.”

Jacksonville had 400 yards of total offense, while holding the Comets to 259 yards. Lamont Gause had 280 total yards and four touchdowns for the Red Devils. Calen Peters led Mills with 122 yards.

Jacksonville received the opening kickoff, but was forced to punt. Mills, however, turned the ball right back to the Red Devils by way of a fumble on its first play from scrimmage. Jacksonville drove to the Mills 2-yard line, but was unable to punch the ball in for the score, turning the ball over on downs to the Comets.

When the Red Devil defense forced a Mills punt, the punters knee touched the ground on the snap, which turned the ball back over to the Jacksonville offense on the Comet 8-yard line. Gause rushed for 7 yards on the first play, and scored from the 1-yard line on the second. John Herrmann’s extra point made the score 7-0 with 4:48 to go in the opening quarter.

Mills moved the chains three times before turning the ball over again by putting the ball on the ground. Jacksonville recovered on its own 20-yard line. Quarterback Brandon Hickingbotham was complete to Maurice Young for 14 yards on the first play of the drive.

Runs of 19, 10, and 23 yards by Gause helped move the ball to the 1-yard line before losing 5 yards back to the 6-yard line. Gause took it 2 yards to the 4-yard line, but on fourth and 4, Herrmann came in to kick a 21-yard field goal making the lead 10-0 with 9:19 to go in the second quarter.

Mills then answered with a 13-play, 53-yard touchdown drive of its own, capped off by an 18-yard scoring pass from quarterback Race Rodgers to Allen Murphy. The extra point was good by Nathan Millsap to narrow the lead to 10-7 with 2:02 to go in the half.

Jacksonville moved 90 yards in six plays, the first of which was a 67-yard scamper by Gause, who then took the ball into the end zone from 2 yards out after a 16-yard gain by Keilen Richardson. Herrmann added the PAT for a 17-7 margin with 0:16 before intermission.

On the first Red Devil possession of the second half, Hickingbotham hit Laderrious Perry for a 14-yard gain, then Avery Wells for 22 yards, before completing the drive with an 11-yard touchdown pass to Gause. Herrmann’s extra point was good again, and the lead was 24-7.

The final score of the contest was a 29-yard touchdown run by Gause, who also had a 45-yard run on the second play of the drive. Herrmann completed a perfect night with the PAT, and the final score was set at 31-7 with 4:16 to go in the third quarter.

Stevie Eskridge intercepted a Rodgers’ pass to give the ball right back to Jacksonville on the Comets’ next possession. The Red Devils pinned Mills back on its own 7-yard line after a punt, and then held the Comets on a fake punt to extinguish scoring attempts by the visitors.

Jacksonville travels to LR McClellan Thursday night for the final regular-season game, but with hopes of extending the season with a playoff berth.

SPORTS STORY >> Badgers win in shocker

Leader sports editor

It took nine weeks, but the Beebe Badgers finally played a game at full strength Friday, and finally played like the team they thought they could be all along. The result was a 41-37 upset of No. 4 ranked and undefeated Sylvan Hills at Blackwood Field in Sherwood. The victory assures the Badgers of a playoff spot, while dashing the Bears’ hopes of a perfect regular season and outright conference championship.

The Badgers suffered through numerous injuries and a rash of turnovers in getting off to a disappointing 0-4 start, but head coach John Shannon believes the team that took the field on Friday is the team he thought he had all along.

“This team has been through so much,” said Shannon. “There’s been injuries, personal problems, you name it. They just showed so much heart and never gave up, and finally came out and looked like the team I thought we had. I kept telling them to hang in there and they stayed after it.”

Beebe fullback Trip Smith, who carried 40 times for 209 yards and four touchdowns, indicated that Shannon’s message to his players got through.

“Coach told us all along that we were good enough to play with these top teams, and to just keep work ing,” said Smith. “This game means so much. It just proves coach was right.”

That key statistic in the game was extra points. Both teams scored six touchdowns. Beebe converted five extra points while Sylvan Hills failed on five, including three blocked kicks by Beebe.

“We hadn’t had that problem all year,” said Sylvan Hills coach Jim Withrow of the kicking woes. “I don’t really know what happened. It was just one of those nights. They just came out here, played a good game and beat us.”

Nothing is really lost yet for Sylvan Hills. The Bears can still win a share of the 5A-Central Conference championship and earn a No. 1 seed in the playoffs with a win next week at Pulaski Academy.

“We still have a lot to play for, that’s the thing,” Withrow said. “We just have to regroup. That’s what you do when you get beat. You regroup and you get back after it.”

The margin stayed within one score until late in the second quarter. Beebe’s halfback Jo’Vaughn Wyrick, who finished the game with nine carries for 130 yards, got 100 of them on the last carry of the first half and his first carry of the second.

Wyrick took a handoff from up-back Reese Anders on a fake punt, misdirection play 43 yards for a touchdown with 24 seconds left until halftime, to send the Badgers into intermission with a 27-13 lead.

On the third play of the second half, Wyrick went 53 yards on the dive play for another score that put the visiting team up 21 and had the Bears on the brink of a blowout.

But Sylvan Hills stormed back with 18 unanswered points, missing PATs after each touchdown.

The first came when tailback Marlon Clemmons went 45 yards around the right end for a touchdown with 6:07 left in the third quarter.

Sylvan Hills then covered the ensuing kickoff, even though it wasn’t an on-side kick. Smith let the ball bounce in front of him and didn’t get on it, allowing Brandon Bracely to cover it at the Badger 27. The Bears didn’t go far on three plays, but quarterback Trajan Doss kept on the option read on fourth and 6 and went 23 yards for the score to make it 34-25.

Beebe came close to putting it away on the next drive, but what almost became a game-clincher turned into a huge play for Sylvan Hills. Beebe quarterback Aaron Nunez hit Clayton Meurer over the top of the Bears’ defense on Beebe’s only pass of the game. It was good for 36 yards, but DeAngelo Bell caught Meurer from behind and knocked the ball loose.

It rolled into the end zone and was covered by Sylvan Hills for a touchback. The Bears then went 80 yards in nine plays with Clemmons getting the last 38 on second and 20. A two-point conversion failed, leaving the Badgers clinging to a three-point lead with 17 tics left in the third.

But Beebe’s grinding offense had done its job, and the Bears couldn’t get a defensive stop the entire fourth quarter. Sylvan Hills had the ball for just 1:52 of the fourth quarter. The Badgers went 53 yards in eight plays on their first possession for a 41-31 lead. The Bears scored quickly, keeping hope alive when Doss scrambled out of trouble on fourth and 14 to hit Cameron Dews for a 36-yard gain to the 9-yard line. Clemmons scored two plays later with 6:37 left on the clock, but the Bears never got it back.

“That’s what we do,” Shannon said of his offense keeping the ball away from the Bears late. “We want to wear you down and keep that ball away from those guys. It’s nice when everything goes according to plan.”

The first three possessions of the game ended in turnovers, with two Sylvan Hills interceptions sandwiching a Beebe fumble. The Badgers finally kept hold of the ball on their second possession and went 54 yards in 10 plays for the game’s first score with 53 seconds left in the first quarter. Smith carried it seven times on the drive, including a 2-yard run on fourth and goal at the 3-yard line, and the 1-yard touchdown plunge immediately after. The extra point try by Tyler Jones was no good, leaving it 6-0.

That started a streak of five-straight touchdown drives by the two teams.

Sylvan Hills answered with a 55-yard drive that included a 28-yard run by Doss with 13 more tacked on at the end for a personal foul against Beebe. It was the second of three personal fouls against the Badgers in the half.

Clemmons got the last 4 yards on third and 1. Zac Brown’s extra point was blocked to leave the game tied with 10:01 left in the first half.

Yards weren’t as easy to come by for Beebe on the next drive, but Meurer took a reverse handoff 40 yards for a first down at the Sylvan Hills 3-yard line on the drive’s fifth play. Smith got the rest on first and goal. The extra point was good, making it 13-6 Beebe.

Sylvan Hills started on its own 35, and Clemmons went 49 yards on the first play to the Badger 16. Two plays later on second and goal from the 7, Clemmons shook two tackles in the backfield, spinning and dancing his way into the end zone to tie the game with 5:11 left in the half.

The Badgers went up by seven when a 14-yard run by Smith capped a 62-yard, seven-play drive.

Clemmons led all rushers with 239 yards and five touchdowns on just 16 carries. The Bears had 405 total yards to 494 for the Badgers.

Beebe will close the season next Thursday at home against North Pulaski. The Bears will play at Pulaski Academy on Friday.

Friday, October 31, 2014

EDITORIAL >> Liquor vote: You decide

If you believe that alcohol is the degradation of man and the ruin of families — a notion with which we sometimes do not vigorously quarrel — then you will want to vote against Ballot Issue 4, which legalizes liquor sales in currently dry counties.

If you have a more tolerant view of alcohol, there is no reason to oppose statewide liquor sales and some reason to vote for it. It is a free-market issue more than a moral question. The raging battle in the media is mostly between the current sellers of bottled liquor in wet precincts and those who would be their competitors and siphon away their sales. The principal source of money for the ads attacking the proposal is a clutch of liquor stores in Conway County, a wet outpost in a sea of dry counties, which put up $558,000 for the campaign against the amendment. Their attorney filed the suit seeking to knock it off the ballot and the suit’s plaintiff was the package stores’ consultant. Altogether, $1.7 million has been spent against the amendment, while Let Arkansas Decide, the group that put the amendment on the ballot and is supporting it, took in $165,000.

There is not a lot of truth in the claims on either side and your own instincts are better guides. Statewide liquor sales will not lead to thousands of new jobs and a giant economic boost, though it will produce a little more tax revenue for those counties. But neither will the constitutional amendment’s passage lead to “liquor stores on every corner” and across the street from schools and churches.

The latter is a claim in many ads and statements from the groups fighting the amendment. But you can put them to rest. The amendment does not repeal current laws regulating liquor sales. When told of the claims, Milton R. Lueken, the attorney for the state Alcoholic Beverage Control Division for the past 25 years, who enforces the state’s liquor laws, laughed and called the claims “bull….”

Arkansas law now prohibits liquor stores within 1,000 feet of churches and schools. If the amendment passes, that prohibition will extend to the whole state. Also, the law allows only one liquor store for each 5,000 population, so there will be no proliferation of liquor stores in any community. Unless the legislature changes the laws restricting liquor outlets, which it can do already, that will be the law in all 75 counties if the amendment passes.

Polls suggest the amendment will fail, but the backers say there will be a quiet vote for it. “Most Arkansans have the common sense and ability to see through all of the smokescreens that the liquor stores are throwing up,” said David Couch of Let Arkansas Decide. “I think when they go in there and they look at the ballot, they know what it’s about. And they know who’s against it.”

The liquor dealers have one realistic concern — that the first stores approved in currently dry counties will be big stores like Walmart, which will sell at much lower prices than the existing dealers, pulling away business from current outlets in Conway County and the many county-line liquor stores or those in wet precincts or forcing down their prices.

One argument of the proponents that has some legitimacy is that it will end the long drives from people in dry counties to the county-line liquor stores, often in the evening, and reduce the traffic accidents and deaths on those heavily traveled routes.

It would also end similar drives in Jacksonville and Sherwood.

Jacksonville became dry in December 1954, while more than half of Sherwood became dry in 1956 — when townships that existed then voted to prohibit alcohol sales. Although the townships as political entities are gone, the laws that were voted on remain in effect.

Then state lawmakers pushed a bill through in the 2013 legislative session that gives residents in the defunct townships a chance to decide on the issue of being wet or dry.

The chambers of commerce of the two cities have been working for a year to collect more than 4,000 signatures each — 38 percent of registered voters in each defunct township — to get local-option elections.

If the statewide amendment passes, their goal of bringing more alcohol-selling restaurants, grocery and convenience stores will be realized and their struggles to get local-option elections won’t be necessary.

On the other hand, passage of the amendment could mean 15 liquor stores in White County and 13 in Lonoke County. Pulaski County is already maxed out on its permits.

If the statewide amendment fails, that may benefit Jacksonville and Sherwood in a roundabout way because, if local-option elections are set and those cities go totally wet, they won’t have to compete with neighboring counties for alcohol-selling businesses.

But let your moral and ethical impulses, not the claims of the competing liquor interests, be your guide when you vote on Issue No. 4.

TOP STORY >> It’s Hays against Hill

Special to The Leader

If the election for Second District congressman were a race between fetching names, who would win, Patrick Henry Hays or J. French Hill?

It is not a wholly absurd question because, at least as much as the reputations and issues, their names seem to be motivations for voters in the seven-county district that stretches from the hills north of Clinton to the Scott plantations. Polls, by the way, show the men running nearly even.

Hays does not go around proclaiming, “Give me liberty or give me death!” or “If this be treason, make the most of it!”—the famous battle cries of the revolutionary Patrick Henry, for whom he was named—nor does Hill try to make any use of popular French images. But they are both good names for a politician, memorable and suggestive. (It has nothing to do with candidate Hill, but French Hill also is a famous Israeli settlement in Jerusalem, often in the news, that has been a historic battleground between Arabs and Israelis since Israel annexed it in the Six-Day War in 1967.)

For Hill, a wealthy banker from a patrician Arkansas family, the name has sometimes been a problem as well as an advantage. Hill had a nasty but easy primary fight to win the Republican nomination against Col. Conrad Reynolds and state Rep. Anne Clemmer. They characterized him as a rich plutocrat who didn’t share the concerns of ordinary Arkansans.

“With all of the problems in Washington,” Reynolds said, “I think we need a bulldog in Congress, not a French poodle.”

Clemmer’s ads referred to him as “Fancy Fat Cat French Hill.” “What a phony!” she added.” Hill carried Little Rock’s affluent west side by huge margins and won easily.

Hays, the Democrat, has not resorted to name-calling like that, but his ads and those of independent groups that support him make the most of Hill’s somewhat aristocratic heritage. Hill has countered with ads about the “old” 1998 Volvo that he drives.

“My dad’s been driving ‘Old Blue’ since before I was born,” Hill’s daughter said in one big ad buy. “He watches every penny.” The Huffington Post and Hays’ team then countered the Old Blue ads by revealing that Hill’s garages also sport a super-expensive Mercedes-Benz and a BMW. Hill’s wife, Martha, is a lobbyist for health-care and other industries at one of Little Rock’s largest law firms.

The cultural and philosophical divide between the two men match the advertising rhetoric.

J. French Hill is a ninth-generation Arkansan, his campaign website notes. He received an economics degree at Vanderbilt University at Nashville and a Certified Corporate Director designation by the Graduate Management School at the University of Southern California. He had a couple of jobs in the administration of the first President George Bush, deputy assistant secretary for corporate finance in the Treasury Department and executive secretary of Bush’s Economic Policy Council. He was president, CEO and chairman of Delta Trust and Banking Corporation since it was formed 20 years ago and acquired a bank charter at Parkdale in Ashley County.

His bank was sold to Simmons First National Corp. of Pine Bluff for $66 million last spring as Hill entered the congressional race. The sale brought charges that Hill had pocketed a small fortune from the sale while many employees of the bank were to lose their jobs. Hill was saying that he would work to create jobs as a congressman. His key is to cut the taxes of corporations so they can compete worldwide and restrain government regulation and taxes.

Hays’ grandfather and father were locomotive engineers and his father was a leader of the railroad union.

“Pat,” as he is commonly called, received a bachelor’s degree and a law degree from the University of Arkansas, practiced law for a time, served a single term in the Arkansas House of Representatives in 1987-88 and then was elected mayor of North Little Rock in 1988. He served 24 years as mayor and generally gets credit for the city’s economic and cultural resurgence. The city’s services generally exceed those of its big neighbor, Little Rock.

When there were plans to build a big sports and entertainment arena in the metropolitan area and a new stadium for Little Rock’s professional baseball team, the Arkansas Travelers, Hays worked out deals to have them both built on his side of the river. The crumbling downtown was revitalized as the Argenta Arts District and became a thriving business and cultural venue, the city’s water system was merged into the Central Arkansas water system, and the sprawling Burns Park was improved. Two decades of declining population reversed.

Owing partly to his name and a statewide newspaper that reported on North Little Rock daily, Hays entered the race with unusual name recognition throughout the district.

He started to run for U.S. Senate in 1998 when Dale Bumpers retired but decided it would disrupt his family. He didn’t run for re-election in 2012 and soon began preparing to run for Congress. With early polls showing Hays well ahead of Rep. Tim Griffin before he even announced, Griffin announced he would not run again after only two terms. When the Republican lieutenant governor was forced to resign early this year, Griffin jumped into that race.

Hays said he decided to run for Congress after seeing the wreckage in Washington when the partisan standoff led to a shutdown of the government. Cooler heads somehow must prevail, he said. He thought he could corral the same cooperation in Congress that he achieved with the historically rancorous North Little Rock City Council although he will find Congress a much more stubborn legislative body than his city’s aldermen.

Hill has enjoyed the same advantage as every other Republican candidate in Arkansas—a black Democratic president who is extremely unpopular in Arkansas. Like every other Republican, he has exploited the advantage, linking Hays to Barack Obama on every occasion and often to House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, who is as unpopular in the South as the president, if not as well known.

He promises to vote to repeal the 2010 health-reform law, known as Obamacare, just as Republicans have done many times since its passage, although Republicans generally acknowledge that the law cannot be repealed but perhaps modified. Hays says he will not vote to repeal the law but will work to make changes in it, just as Congress has repeatedly reformed Social Security and Medicare.

But Hill also favors repealing the so-called “private-option,” Arkansas’s peculiar version of the Medicaid expansion authorized by Obamacare. The Arkansas legislature, not Congress, will have to do that. Hays says the legislature should not end the Medicaid expansion because it would throw more than 210,000 Arkansans off insurance rolls.

It is not clear how that issue cuts politically in the Second District, where most legislators, Republican and Democrats supported the private option. About 65,000 of Hill’s Second District constituents would have their health insurance and ready access to doctor and hospital care ended.

Hill is virtually alone among both Democrats and Republicans on the minimum wage. He has opposed the concept of a minimum wage—of the government telling businesses they cannot pay rock-bottom wages to their employees.

But while other Republicans who have opposed minimum-wage laws in concept have come around to saying they will vote for the initiated wage floor that is on the ballot, Hill has steadfastly refused to say how he will actually vote on it. Polls show a large majority of voters supporting the wage law.

Hill said the higher minimum wage—to $8.50 an hour in 2017—will cost jobs and would do nothing to bring a genuinely poor family out of poverty. He eventually said he would vote for the Arkansas proposal if he could be absolutely convinced that it would not cost any jobs, but he has refused to say whether or not he had seen convincing evidence.

Hays said he could not understand why Hill and Standiford would not support a minimum wage so modest when it would improve the lives of thousands of Arkansans and give the economy a boost.

Both Hays and Hill received plaudits before October for running positive and cheerful ads and avoiding the name-calling and distortions that characterized all the other campaigns. But both then turned bitterly negative the last month of the race. It is hard to say who was first. But the blizzard of negative ads followed word that outside super-PACs were dumping millions into the campaign.

The Hill campaign and its independent stand-ins accused Hays of raising taxes in North Little Rock and using the taxes to raise his own salary several times. Actually, the City Council raises taxes and fixes the salaries. Hays said he did not ask for salary increases and that his salary when he was mayor was comparable to that of mayors of other cities in North Little Rock’s population range in Arkansas and lower than elsewhere.

So by this weekend, the question is how much, over 45 days, Hays’ image has been changed from effective mayor, bridge builder and disciple of the famous American revolutionary to greedy taxer, spender and Obama slave, and for Hill from civic-minded banker and Republican brain-truster to selfish protector of the well-to-do and corporations and bane of the working stiffs.

TOP STORY >> Rutledge vs. Steel

Special to The Leader

The race for attorney general, between a woman who says she will protect the state from President Obama and a man who says he will protect us better from criminals, is an odd one by modern standards.

Only Bruce Ben-nett, back in 1956, pledged to use the attorney general’s office as a hammer against the feds—that time against the United States Supreme Court, which had ordered the integration of public schools. In office, Bennett did little except rail against the federal courts and write bills for the legislature that punished integrationists and promoted resistance to integration. It was the governor, Orval Faubus, who actually took up cudgels against the federal government in the integration fight and lost, ending the last big state challenge to the supremacy clause of the U.S. Constitution.

But the precedent for Leslie Rutledge’s promise to take on outsiders, in the form of the president and the whole federal government, goes back to 1899, when the new attorney general, Jeff Davis, filed 126 lawsuits to stop out-of-state insurance companies fromdoing business in Arkansas because they fixed premiums through rating bureaus and then filed suits against all kinds of out-of-state corporations that did business in Arkansas.

He lost on every count, but the attorney general’s war on Wall Street launched the most colorful political career in Arkansas history.

Particularly since Jeff Davis, the attorney general has been viewed as the best steppingstone to governor—eight, including Davis, made it and others failed—so campaigns often have little relationship to the ordinary duties of the attorney general, which is to give legal advice to state agencies and public officials, represent state agencies in legal proceedings and handle appeals of criminals convictions from all the counties.

The office has expanded over the years to include a consumer-protection division and a unit to investigate Medicaid and nursing-home fraud, and a few AGs have joined national suits against industries, like tobacco, that have been seen as harming people in the state.

The candidates in this race are Republican Rutledge, 38, of Little Rock who has practiced law in Jacksonville; Democrat Nate Steel, 33, of Nashville (Howard County), a state representative; and Libertarian Aaron Cash, 27, of Springdale.

If it were left up to Steel, a staid lawyer from tiny Nashville (he and his father are the county’s only lawyers), the race would have attracted little attention.

Steel, a former prosecutor, has talked almost exclusively about the need to fix the state’s criminal-justice and parole systems and packed prisons, which leave too many thugs on the street unpunished. While the attorney general’s role is to try to see that convictions are not overturned on appeal, Steel says he will offer bills to fix the system and work to see that they are passed.

He voted against a law passed in 2011 to relieve prison overcrowding through sentencing reforms because he said it would leave people unprotected and not solve prison crowding. He said experience had borne him out.

Libertarian Cash’s solution to prison crowding has been reform drug laws, which account for a large part of the prison population.

But the race has focused all year almost altogether on Rutledge, not wholly by her wishes. She had a bitter fight for the Republican nomination in the spring against David Sterling and Patricia Nation, in which a flood of dark money, from undisclosed donors, attacked her in the closing days.

Then another flood of money, again from undisclosed donors, attacked Steel on her behalf the last three weeks of the general election. She condemned the secret money in the primary but not the dark money for her.

The publicity turned negative during the summer when a blogger disclosed that when Rutledge left one of her many jobs, at the state Department of Human Services in 2007, her file noted “Do Not Rehire” owing to unexplained “gross misconduct.”

She has refused to give the agency her consent to release her personnel file to show what the misconduct was, but she said it was political payback because she had quit abruptly to work for Mike Huckabee in his presidential campaign in 2007-08.

She had worked for him in the governor’s office briefly, practiced law privately some, been a clerk for the state Court of Appeals and worked for the Republican Party in Washington, D.C.

Then Rutledge’s emails at Human Services revealed that she had transmitted a parody of a black family seeking benefits (she characterized it as “country” rather than racist) and sent other racy notes to her colleagues. An account circulated of her flinging her underwear at a male patron of the Capitol Hotel bar in Little Rock.

Her campaign finance reports revealed that nursing home magnate Michael Morton, who lost lawsuits over nursing-home negligence, had sent $70,000 to her campaign. The attorney general oversees Medicaid and nursing-home fraud investigations.

Finally, it was revealed that she had registered to vote in Arkansas, Virginia and the District of Columbia and seemed to have voted simultaneously in Virginia and in Arkansas by absentee ballot while she was working for the Republican Party in Washington.

In September, the Pulaski County clerk voided her voter registration in Arkansas because of her registration in other jurisdictions, and she had to register again.

In October, the Blue Hog Report, a Democratic blog, filed a complaint with the state Ethics Commission alleging that she had violated state election laws by actively coordinating with the Republican Attorney Generals Association (RAGA) in a $400,000 television ad campaign attacking her opponent and boosting her election.

RAGA is a 527 Super PAC and the corporations and individuals that fund it are kept secret. Independent groups can spend unlimited amounts on a campaign against a candidate as long as it does not ask people to vote for the other candidate and there is no coordination with the campaign. It must be truly independent.

But Rutledge herself is the star in the ads, speaking and wielding a salt shaker. She admitted writing the narrative in the ad. She interpreted court and Ethics Commission rulings as permitting the coordination. The Ethics Commission is investigating but it will not report until after the election.

Flamboyance comes in Rutledge’s family. Her grandfather, Les Rutledge, for whom she was named, was a famous mountain man, farmer, moonshiner, trapper and rifleman in Independence County.

He ended the locally famous Rutledge-Beel family feud at Christmas 1952 by confronting the neighboring Beel brothers in a makeshift duel on Hutchinson Mountain and fired two shots, killing Joe Beel instantly and critically wounding his brother Frank.

He objected to the Beels crossing his property. Rut-ledge was sentenced to five years in prison for manslaughter. He took his horse and a long rifle with him to Cummins Prison and became a long-line rider, guarding other inmates in the fields.

Two years later, the new governor, Orval Faubus, commuted his sentence and he was paroled. He was convicted twice for making and selling illegal whiskey, but a jury acquitted him a third time in federal district court on his sworn testimony that he was guilty the first two times but, despite the evidence, not the third.

Leslie’s father, Keith, ran for judge in Independence County, unsuccessfully each time, but Huckabee and Frank White appointed him to vacant judgeships.

Rutledge has been the presumptive winner all year, first because of her Republican credentials in a year when voters tend to lean Republican owing to the unpopular Democratic president.

Rutledge seized on that advantage by attacking Obama and his health law every chance she got. She said the present attorney general, Dustin McDaniel, should have joined Republican attorneys general in several states in suits in 2012 to block the health-care law from taking effect nationally or in their states. They all failed.

She has said that as attorney general, she would stand up to Barack Obama and protect the state from regulations from the Obama administration. She has mentioned only the health-care law and the federal law that restored some federal regulation of banks after the financial collapse of 2008.

The Republican Party countered all the accusations against Rutledge by accusing Steel of serving simultaneously as the city attorney at Nashville, which the law prohibits. The state Republican chairman filed a lawsuit asking the court to declare his dual office holding illegal. Steel said the Republicans failed to cite a specific statute that permits small cities to contract with a lawyer in the legislature if no other lawyer in town was willing to take the job. The only other lawyer is his aging father.

TOP STORY >> Arkansans heading to polls

Voters go to the polls Tuesday to decide who will lead nearly every city in The Leader’s coverage area, as well as which party will control the U.S. Senate as Mark Pryor struggles to keep his seat from Republican challenger Rep. Tom Cotton.

The mayors of Jacksonville, Cabot, Sherwood, Lonoke and Ward are all in contested races. There are also several competitive city council races, as well as other municipal positions that are up for grabs.

Pulaski County saw 50,978 early votes by late Friday. Lonoke County reported record early voting with 7,789, while White County had 6,900 cast ballots. Early voting continues Saturday and ends Monday.

Rep. Rick Crawford (R-Jonesboro) and Heber Springs Mayor Jackie McPherson, a Democrat, are facing off in the First District, which includes Cabot.

In the Second Congressional District, Republican banker French Hill and former North Little Rock Mayor Patrick Hays are vying to replace Rep. Tim Griffin, who is stepping down to run for lieutenant governor.

In the governor’s race, two former congressmen, Republican Asa Hutchinson and Mike Ross, a Democrat, are neck and neck in the polls. Frank Gilbert, a Libertarian, is also in the race.

Democrat John Burkhalter, a Sylvan Hills native and multi-millionaire businessman, is challenging Republican congressman Tim Griffin in the lieutenant governor’s race.

For attorney general, it’s Democrat Nate Steal against Republican Leslie Rutledge and Libertarian Aaron Cash.

At the local level, first-term Cabot Mayor Bill Cypert is trying to fend off former Mayor Mickey (Stubby) Stumbaugh. Cypert has said Stumbaugh caused financial problems for the city and failed to properly manage municipal building projects.

Alderman Angie Jones is facing a double challenge from Wendell Gibson and Doyle Tullos for Ward 3, Position 1. And Ron Waymack and Doug Thompson are grappling for the Ward 4, Position 1.

Jacksonville Mayor Gary Fletcher and former Police Chief Gary Sipes sparred over the city’s finances and the Arkansas Game and Fish Foundation Shooting Complex in a contentious race as Fletcher seeks a third term.

Aldermen Mike Traylor is after a second term, but will have to get past former police and code-enforcement officer Bill Shelley.

In a sleeper race, Jackson-ville City Attorney Bobby Bamburg is facing a rare challenge from his old law partner, Keith Vaughan, who was Jacksonville city attorney in the 1980s while Bamburg was his deputy.

For Pulaski County Judge, Democrat Barry Hyde, Libertarian Glenn Schwartz and Republican Phil Wyrick are angling to step in for longtime County Judge Buddy Villines, who is retiring.

Democrat Sandra Prater and Republican Aaron Robinson are competing for the Dist. 42 justice of the peace seat, which represents Jacksonville and Gravel Ridge.

For the JP Dist. 15 spot, Staci Medlock, a Democrat and a relator, is up against Jesse Macom Teague to represent North Little Rock and Sherwood.

Sherwood Mayor Virginia Hillman trying to fend off two outspoken critics — retired Air Force Col. Don Berry and Doris Anderson. Conducting municipal business openly and financial priorities, with expenses related to the Greens at North Hills, have been key issues in the race.

First-term incumbent Mary Jo Heye is being challenged by former longtime Alderman Butch Davis, who has said he wants back his old Ward 2, Position 1 seat.

Ward 1, Position 1 incumbent Toni Butler is facing Beverly Williams, a retired school administrator who has helped lead the city’s effort to get its own school district by breaking away from the Pulaski County Special School District, now under state supervision.

Also on the ballot in Sherwood is a measure to build a new library by temporarily raising property taxes. If approved, homeowners would pay about $30 more a year for a $150,000 home.

Longtime Sherwood City Clerk Angela Nicholson is in her first election against challenger Stephen Partridge.

Ward Mayor Art Brooke, who said he’d like to serve one more term, is facing off against his perennial challenger Bill Boyd.

Mayor Wayne McGee is up against Jim Bailey in Lonoke, where there are also three competitive aldermen races: Bobby Rhodes versus Norman Evans Jr., Raymond Hatton versus George Gooden and Wendell Walker versus Larry Clark (not outgoing Lonoke County Clerk Larry Clarke).

Austin has one city council race, which was left off some early voting ballots. Rusty Eisenhower and Anthony Fible are seeking the Ward 3, Position 1 seat.

Republican Tate House, a young manager for the South White County Water Authority, and Democrat Johnny Hudspeth, a seasoned realtor, are trying to win the Lonoke County JP Dist. 8 seat to represent the Butlerville area.

In Beebe Ward 1, Position 1 Aldermen Harold Welch is hoping to beat David Pruitt, who owns American Auto and Tire.

Ward 3, Position 2 Alderman Dale Bass is opposed by Warren Spillman, a 32-year-old who holds a business degree from Harding University.

Alderman John Johnson is hoping to retain his Ward 3, Position 1 seat by defeating Matt Dugger.

Republican Karilyn Brown and Democrat Danny Knight are competing for the legislature’s House Dist. 41 seat to represent Sherwood.

In Lonoke, Republican Buddy Fisher of England and Camille Bennett, Lonoke’s city attorney, are vying to replace term-limited Democratic Rep. Walls McCrary in Dist. 14.

For House Dist. 38, which includes North Little Rock and parts of Sherwood, Democratic incumbent Patti Julian will have to beat Republican Donnie Copeland if she is to win a second term.

Issue No. 1 is a proposed amendment to provide for legislative review and approval of state agencies’ administrative rules.

Issue No. 2 is amendment allowing more time to gather signatures on a statewide initiative or referendum petitions only if the petition as originally filed contained at least 75 percent of the valid signatures required.

Issue No. 3 would regulate contributions to candidates for state and local office, barring gifts for state officials and setting term limits for legislators. They would serve a maximum of 16 years in the House and Senate. A citizens committee would also establish salaries for public officials and judges.

Issue No. 4 would allow liquor sales throughout Arkansas with certain restrictions.

Issue No. 5 would increase the Arkansas minimum wage from $6.25 an hour to $7.50 an hour next January, then to $8 in January 2016 and $8.50 in January 2017.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

TOP STORY >> Pryor vs. Cotton: How times change

Special to the leader

Only six years ago, Mark Pryor was re-elected to the U. S. Senate by the widest margin in the country, almost 80 percent. So popular or at least so invulnerable was Pryor that he was the only senatorial candidate of either major party who did not get an opponent from the other party. He defeated Rebekah Kennedy, a lawyer who ran on the Green Party ticket and attacked him for his conservative voting record.

Only one other senator in modern Arkansas history got by without a major-party opponent, Pryor’s daddy, in 1990.

But two years ago, even before Tom Cotton announced he would run, Pryor was universally marked for almost certain defeat in 2014, like his colleague Blanche Lincoln in 2010. From the outset, Pryor trailed Cotton, the largely unknown first-term representative from the district embracing southern and western Arkansas, by a wide margin but clawed his way back into contention in the most expensive political race, by far, in Arkansas history. As the election approaches, he still trails Cotton in most polls.

So what happened to that mandate?

The short answer is that the earth moved under Pryor’s feet. Barack Obama was elected president in the same election that gave Pryor his second term, and the gradual pace of demographic change quickened. White voters, particularly men, left the Democratic Party in droves and, outside urban precincts, the inevitable linkage with Obama put Democratic candidates for even the lowest offices at a disadvantage.

The Cotton-Pryor campaign has not been about the records or philosophies of either man, although Pryor tried mightily to make it so, but about President Obama. In their two hour-long debates, Cotton uttered Obama’s name 73 times in one and 81 in the other. No matter what the question was, Cotton worked in “Obama,” often four or five times in the same response. The evidence is that the strategy works almost unfailingly.

Linda Collins Smith, a veteran Republican legislative candidate in north central Arkansas, told a Little Rock visitor at a campaign event in Sharp County last week that all she had to do was mention that her opponent was in a party with Obama.

“It’s the easiest race I ever ran,” she said. Cotton has found that it works from border to border.

Pryor’s own commercials and those of independent Democratic groups tried to make Pryor’s own voting record and that of Cotton the issue, suggesting that Cotton’s passionate libertarian philosophy left no room for helping Arkansas people through the spending of federal dollars on disaster relief and food aid or the activities of the federal government like subsidized medical insurance, student loans, Medicaid and Medicare. It seemed to put Pryor back in the game early this year—Cotton’s negatives are amazingly high for a politician so recently on the scene—but Pryor’s momentum stalled this summer when he reached approximate parity with Cotton, a little above 40 percent in the polls.

Fetching life stories helped both Pryor, 51, and Cotton, 37, achieve immediate success in politics.

Pryor’s father, David, whose esteem was a big factor in all of Mark’s races, was one of the most popular politicians in Arkansas history, winning three races for state representative from his home county of Ouachita, three for U.S. representative from the Fourth District, two for governor and three for the Senate.

A heart attack and distress over the rising partisan ferocity in Congress made him quit in 1996. Like his colleague, Dale Bumpers, who quit two years later, Pryor had many Republican friends and often cosponsored bills with them.

The Republicans had been replaced by angrier men who considered Democrats the enemy, and the Senate became a less collegial place.

The younger Pryor, shyer and less ebullient than his father, was even less partisan when he went to the Senate, in his father’s old seat, in 2003. He often incurred the wrath of Democratic leaders in the Senate and many Democrats at home when he joined with a handful of moderates from both parties to bridge the divide between the warring factions. He was one of the “Gang of Fourteen”—seven Democrats and seven Republican moderates—who teamed up in 2005 to end the stalemate in the Senate, when the minority Democrats filibustered the confirmation of 10 of President George W. Bush’s judicial nominees.

The majority Republicans threatened to use Senate rules to prevent filibusters—the so-called “nuclear option”—but Pryor and the other 13 collaborated to confirm all but the “worst” of the Bush nominees in exchange for the GOP not adopting the nuclear option, which Republicans had opposed when Democrats threatened to use it against Republicans who were filibustering President Clinton’s nominees.

Pryor and Senator Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut joined Republicans on other occasions to end stalemates.

It continued after Obama’s election. Pryor, two other Democrats and three Republicans—known this time as the “Gang of Six”—teamed up to try to force a compromise on debt reduction after a bipartisan commission recommended far-reaching tax and benefit changes and budget cuts to lower the future costs of Medicare and Social Security and reach a balanced budget. With both parties and the president at loggerheads, Pryor’s bipartisan group proposed sweeping changes short of those proposed by the commission but which would have reduced deficits by $3.7 trillion over 10 years.

Other congressional Republicans didn’t like the taxes in the plan, Democrats protested the benefit changes, and nothing was done.

Pryor has bragged often about “reaching across the isle” to work with Republicans, which he says Cotton will never do. That reputation seemed to be a part of Pryor’s popularity with independents in 2008, but in the current take-no-prisoners climate it no longer seems to move any voters.

A young lawyer with the big Wright Lindsey Jennings law firm at Little Rock, Pryor was elected to a central Little Rock seat in the state House of Representatives in 1990 and again in 1992. He opposed Attorney General Winston Bryant in the Democratic primary in 1994 and lost decisively.

In 1996 Pryor went to the doctor to treat what he thought was a basketball injury to his left Achilles tendon. It turned out to be clear-cell sarcoma, a rare cancer that is usually fatal. A doctor told him that the safest option was to have his leg amputated but Pryor underwent surgery for 13 hours to have the cancerous tendon removed and replaced by a tendon obtained from a tissue bank in New Jersey. After 15 months of therapy he was able to walk again unassisted. He still walks with a limp.

When Bryant ran unsuccessfully for the retiring Bumpers’ Senate seat in 1998, won by Republican Congressman Tim Hutchinson, Pryor ran again for attorney general and won. Pryor would win his father’s old Senate seat in 2002 after Hutchinson was sullied by an affair with his legislative assistant and a subsequent divorce. Pryor became the youngest member of the Senate.

Cotton is the son of a prominent Yell County farmer. Classmates and teachers say he was unusually serious and driven. He was determined to go to an Ivy League university, preferably Harvard, the most prestigious university in the land, and he was accepted, eventually earning a bachelor’s degree in government and a law degree, the latter in 2002. He clerked for a federal judge in Texas and practiced briefly with a national law firm based in Los Angeles and another law firm in Washington, D.C.

In 2005, he joined the Army and entered officer training. In tandem with his Harvard degrees, Cotton’s four-year military career, which included duty in both Iraq and Afghanistan, gave him a sparkling political résumé. After leaving the Army in 2009, he worked a short time for McKinsey & Co., the giant global corporate consulting firm, and then came home to Dardanelle to begin his political career.

Even before he announced for Congress in the Fourth District in 2011, he was being touted in Washington as a future political star. Farm boy, Harvard grad, combat soldier and corporate lawyer and consultant were viewed as an unmatched combination.

But Cotton was still struggling in the huge Fourth District as the Republican primary campaign got underway. Far behind his two Republican opponents, Cotton one day received a FedEx envelope stuffed with $300,000 of checks sent by the Club for Growth, an independent nonprofit political group that opposes taxes, federal regulation and federal social services, including Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Former Gov. Mike Huckabee, whose presidential campaign in 2008 was sidelined by attacks from the Club for Growth over his tax and spending increases as governor, calls it the “Club for Greed.” After the FedEx delivery, money flowed from other conservative groups like Americans for Prosperity and Crossroads USA.

He won the Republican primary handily and the general election against a badly outspent Democrat.

Before he was sworn in, he let it be known that he intended to run against Pryor in 2014.

Somewhere, perhaps at Harvard, Cotton developed an evangelical libertarian view of government and society. Free markets and untrammeled individual freedom were the moral forces in the United States. He wrote a column for the Harvard Crimson expressing his views about government. His columns about women were resurrected last year to raise questions about how he would vote on women’s issues, such as equal pay.

Somewhere along the way, he developed a relationship with David Koch, one of the billionaire brothers whose political spending to elect ultraconservative Republicans has been a revolving theme in the nation’s politics.

David Koch was the driving intellect of the Libertarian Party and was its candidate for vice president in 1980. The platform that year called for the repeal of Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, mini mum-wage laws, food-safety laws, environmental regulation, compulsory education and government and taxpayer support of public schools and colleges. It called for the eventual repeal of all taxes.

Koch campaigned tirelessly but the Libertarian Party barely scored in an election won by Ronald Reagan. He and his running mate, Ed Clark, got one percent of the votes and less than that in Arkansas. He decided that a third party had no future and that libertarians should instead take over the Republican Party.

Koch and his brother Charles own vast oil, gas, coal and pipeline operations and other manufacturers, including Georgia Pacific, which has a big papermaking plant at Crossett.

Americans for Prosperity and other Koch-funded groups pumped tens of millions of dollars into libertarian and tea-party candidates across the country, including Cotton’s race and the campaigns of Republican legislative candidates in Arkansas.

The Cotton-Koch connection got some unwanted publicity in Arkansas in the summer when Cotton missed the Pink Tomato Festival of Warren, a must-do political event. A magazine revealed that he had been at a secret retreat at a California resort organized by Koch and attended by several billionaires with political interests. Cotton and the Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, were the star guests. Cotton was lauded as one of the true champions of libertarian causes in Congress. He had a 100 percent voting record for Americans for Prosperity.

Cotton, in fact, is unlike Pryor as well as the other four Republican members of Congress from Arkansas in his distaste for compromise and political deal making. He seems to vote his convictions nearly always, though they may be troubling votes for many Arkansans, even most people in his native Yell County.

If Pryor were asked to summarize his philosophy of government, it probably would be nothing more than “try to help people.”

But on vote after vote as a freshman congressman, Cotton has stuck to libertarian principles.

He was the only member of Congress from Arkansas who voted to deny Social Security and Medicare to people under 70 years old and lower their benefits, to transform Medicare into a voucher system, to vote against reducing interest rates on student loans, to vote against federal relief to disaster victims after devastating hurricanes and tornadoes, to vote against a farm bill that continued subsidies to farmers and food subsidies for the poor, to abolish the federal economic development agency that makes development grants to Arkansas communities.

He seems to have made a single capitulation to politics. Although he opposes minimum-wage laws, he said he would vote for the initiated act on the Arkansas ballot that raises the state minimum wage once the courts approved it for the ballot. Polls show that it is widely popular.

Pryor’s campaign has concentrated almost entirely on Cotton’s steady votes against government programs and what those votes mean for Arkansas if Cotton prevailed, particularly farmers and students. But defending government in any form has limited potential in this election year, perhaps because many, perhaps most, Arkansas voters Barack Obama as the personification of government.

A single vote by Pryor is all that Cotton and the groups funding the millions of independent ads against Pryor have needed. He voted for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, nicknamed by Republicans as Obamacare, in 2010. The act was written by a Senate committee on which Sen. Blanche Lincoln was a key member but Obama had asked Congress to write a bill that insured everyone and brought medical spending under control and signed the bill into law.

Pryor has not defended the vote directly but he has done far more than Lincoln did. He talks about the benefits for Arkansas from the expansion of Medicaid, the coverage of people with pre-existing conditions, the new protections against insurance companies canceling people’s policies when they have long-term illnesses or capping their benefits and allowing young people to stay on their parents’ policies until they are 26. He just doesn’t say that they are part of Obamacare.

But the ads, both those run by the Cotton campaign and by independent groups that keep their donors secret, make Pryor the man who made the law possible because it passed in the Senate without a vote to spare.

Cotton says if he is elected to the Senate and Republicans take over the Senate they will repeal Obamacare.

His critics ask, what will happen to the 250,000 Arkansans who now have health insurance, the hospitals that depend upon the reimbursement and the hundreds of thousands of seniors who would see their drug costs go up sharply if the law is repealed? Cotton suggests that they would find something to replace the law.

But despite all the benefits and a slight relaxation of fears that Obamacare will cut people’s Medicare benefits and have the government make decisions about people’s medical treatment (it does neither of those things), Obamacare remains about as unpopular in Arkansas as it was after the blizzard of ads attacking in 2010. The insurance reform and the president are albatrosses that Pryor has been unable to dislodge.

Like other Arkansas Democrats, Pryor’s hope is an unprecedented voter-turnout project and a swarm of new young voters who may not share their elders’ prejudices and preferences. It is a long hope.

TOP STORY >> Students going to Space Camp

Leader staff writer

Area schools are giving fifth-grade students a chance to dream about being astronauts and oceanographers with spring trips to Space Camp and Sea Camp.

Both Cabot Middle School North and South have made the annual three-day trek to Space Camp in Huntsville, Ala., for years in the spring. The cost is $370. It includes all meals, snacks, T-shirts, lodging and transportation.

Scholarship opportunities are available to send students whose families cannot afford the cost. The parent-teacher organization and individuals donate.

Cabot Middle School South principal Georgia Chastain said, “It is fun. There is always something to do.”

Middle School South sent 240 students. Middle School North had 270 students attending. The schools went at different days.

Chastain said the students are in groups of six with a chaperone. At the camp, 15 students are paired with a camp counselor.

It takes seven charter buses to make the trip.

Chastain said Space Camp lets the students participate in a simulated space flight and space walks. A simulated space mission allows students to assume different roles and successfully land the space craft.

The museum has rockets from the 1950s to now. The students get to make rockets. They sleep in a space habitat that looks like a space ship. Chastain also said they have a space bowl that is like a quiz bowl competition. Students design mission patches.

“I like the Space Shot (ride). You go straight up and it drops you down real fast,” Chastain said.

“The students don’t realize they are learning. They come away with knowledge about the space program. They learn about flight, physics, math, science and history,” Chastain said.

Cabot Middle School Space Camp coordinator Susan Corn said, “It is great opportunity for students to get hands-on learning. They are able to do things they would not normally be able to do like the mock missions. The Space Camp counselors are very well trained and know more about space than we could.”

“We hope it inspires students to work towards working in space as an astronaut or a scientist who works on the ground. It is a good bonding experience with the teachers and students you don’t get in the classroom,” Corn said.

Corn said students get a brief synopsis of what they’ll see and learn in the classroom before the trip.

“It is very tiring. We go hard all day long. There is no TV in the room and no time to hang out. Kids have activities. Every minute is accounted for. They talk about the rest of the school year,” Corn said.

“I have parents that want to chaperone because they remember going on the Space Camp trip,” Corn said.

Corn said students who do not go to Space Camp have a space day at CMSN on that Friday that they enjoy. It is a similar curriculum the campers will experience.

Beebe Middle School sixth graders have gone every year. Last year the trip was open to fifth, sixth and seventh graders. They had 150 students. Beebe will skip this year but plans to resume next year with fifth and sixth grades, to be more economical for parents.

Dupree Elementary is the only school in Jacksonville or Sherwood that takes a similar out-of-state trip. Dupree heads to Sea Camp in April at the University of Southern Mississippi’s Gulf Coast Research Laboratory.

Last year, 30 students rode a charter bus.

The two-day trip is open to all fourth graders. The cost is $300 and covers transportation, dorms and meals for the students. The school works with the parent teacher organization and local businesses to help raise funds for students who need financial assistance.

“Any child who wants to go can, with their parent’s permission, we will make it happen,” Dupree principal Janice Walker said.

Walker said on the first day, students attend class and get an overview of types of sea life. They look at specimens under the microscope.

Then they go to the marsh and capture the sea life they learned about earlier in the day. In the evenings they write in their journals about what they learned.

The next morning the students go to Ship Island, the Mississippi Sound in the Gulf of Mexico. Then they tour Fort Massachusetts and the Civil War marker.

Students take a pretest and a post test to measure their learning.

Walker said the children get a hands-on opportunity with science. They get the experience of going to an out-of-state college and staying at a dorm. It may inspire them to attend college in the future.

When the students come back to Dupree they are able to share their learning and have to give a presentation.

TOP STORY >> AARP hosts Stumbaugh, Cypert duel

Leader staff writer

The Cabot chapter of AARP held a candidates forum Monday night at the senior center with only three candidates speaking on the issues with voters: Cabot Mayor Bill Cypert, who is seeking re-election; his opponent, former mayor Mickey (Stubby) Stumbaugh, and Democrat John Hudspeth, who is running for Lonoke County justice of the peace in District 8 against Republican Tate House.

Cypert said Cabot has a bright future. “It’s going in the right direction with a lot at stake,” the mayor said.

“Working together, Cabot will be one of the best places in America to live, work and invest,” he said.

Cypert said the library is scheduled to open in the spring. The sports and water complex will open next fall. The North Terminal Interchange is to be completed in the next five years. All of the projects were approved by voters.

Plans for a new senior center are being discussed. The center would move next door after remodeling the neighboring library building or move to a new location.

The mayor said the city is also looking at adding a therapy pool with warmer water for seniors as part of community center renovations.

“Quality of life is economic development. We are building a city where your kids and grandkids will want to live,” Cypert said.

Stubby Stumbaugh was elected as mayor in 2002. He is a 1986 Cabot High School graduate. He said people should know the truth about his term while mayor.

As mayor, his priorities were streets, water and drug-related crime. Stumbaugh said when he took office Cabot had a huge problem with crystal methamphetamine and meth labs. It affected many people in town. If elected mayor, Stumbaugh said he will not run for another office, as he did when he ran for Congress at the end of his mayoral term.

“I don’t want this community to be a place to raise our children and grandchildren. I want this place to be awesome for you to live, right now,” Stumbaugh said.


“Throughout this campaign you’ve probably heard people say with a big fat lie coming out of their mouths that I left this city broke. The truth of the matter is we spent money on city services,” Stumbaugh said.

Stumbaugh said during his four years of being mayor, Cabot was the third fastest growing city in the state and fifth fastest in the nation per capita.

“We were growing by leaps and bounds, on an average 100 people per month moving into this town. In four years, we had almost 5,000 people. We were providing services to 23,000 people on a 15,000 people budget, which is virtually impossible,” Stumbaugh said.

He said during 2006 as mayor, the city did a special census costing $600,000. When the census results were completed, in 2007 the city received millions of dollars of turnback money over the next four years because the city spent $600,000 for the future of Cabot.

“We left money in the bank and the ability to pay the bills. When I took over as mayor, we were late paying our bills by 90 to 100 days. When you have phenomenal growth, you are going to have that stuff. People want services and deserve services. They pay their taxes. It is because the city and those people in charge did not make the effort to look at a special census to try and receive some of this turnback money,” Stumbaugh said.

He said Cabot did some great things when he was mayor. He said the animal shelter was built. Millions of dollars worth of sidewalks were laid to connect schools. Stumbaugh said when he was in office, the city no longer waived any sidewalks in subdivisions under construction. Because sidewalks were waived it lessened the ability to get sidewalk money and grants from Metroplan and the federal highway department.

“That probably made me very unpopular amongst the homebuilders association. That’s fine, because I wasn’t elected by the homebuilders association. I was elected by the people of this town to represent the people, the views and the values of the citizens of this city and not some special interest or the good ol’ boy system,” Stumbaugh said.

Stumbaugh also spoke about the Veterans Park Community Center.

“They say Stubby built that community center and it needed $900,000 of improvements to the roof. You know what—I am not a building inspector. I didn’t vote on the construction company. I didn’t even vote on the engineer. I didn’t vote on the architect,” Stumbaugh said.

“Some people say that I had a hand it in, but it was voted on by the city council that was opposed to anything I wanted done anyway. They voted for every one of those things to be put into place, and we built a very nice Veterans Memorial Community Center,” Stumbaugh continued.

“It was voted on by the people, and the people got exactly what they wanted. Sure, there was some shoddy stuff. There were holes cut into the roof after my administration, which caused the roof to deteriorate,” Stumbaugh said.

He said the talk of needing a community center for 25 years stopped.

Stubby said he wants a fire department, police department and street department that loves coming to work every day and protecting the citizens that pays their salaries.

A suggestion box once hung outside city hall has since been removed. Stumbaugh said when he was mayor, he let anyone speak during the city council meeting who had an issue.

“If you live in the city of Cabot, you have a voice with me in the mayor’s office,” Stumbaugh said.


Cypert said West Main Street can be four lanes, but would lose a left turn lane in a high commercial and business area. Cypert does not believe the state Highway Department would allow it.

Cypert said the city’s plan is to get traffic in and out Cabot efficiently and reduce volume on Main Street. He thanked voters for passing a half-cent sales state tax in 2012 for four-lane highway improvements and for local streets. Hwy. 67/167 is being widening to six lanes from Jacksonville to Cabot and later improvement will start on Exit 16 and Exit 19.

“When I came into office our city streets were a decade or more behind in maintenance. That is unacceptable. With our growth in revenue and the half-cent sales tax over the next decade the city will have $8 million to $10 million in state turnback funds to improve, overlay and repave streets,” Cypert said.

A detailed list of eight miles of streets in need of repairs and overlays over the next two years is listed on the city’s website, Cypert said.

An AARP member said she loved the new traffic circles and wanted more.

“The roundabouts on Lincoln (Street) have been a phenomenal success. Cars never stop and wait, other than getting into the roundabout,” Cypert said.

Cypert said if more traffic circles are needed they will be built. A traffic signal can cost around $325,000. The new signal on Hwy. 367 and Hwy. 38 intersection was $700,000 including renovations to connect it to the freeway when the North Interchange is completed. Traffic circles have low maintenance, just the pavement. The two Lincoln Street roundabouts were a partnership with the Cabot School District and cost $625,000.

“Downtown Cabot is a whole lot different than downtown Conway. The roundabouts need to be built wide enough that all types of vehicles can fit around them,” Stumbaugh said.

An AARP member thought the new street light poles being installed along West Main Street were pretty and very nice. Cypert said the streetscape started in 2010.

“Community development is important. When new people come to town at looking and living here or putting a business here, they get off Exit 19, the gateway to the city. They need to see pristine, clean and impressive roadways. Not what we had all these years with the overhead lines, ditches with stagnate water and no sidewalks for people to walk,” Cypert said.

“There are a lot of people living in the downtown area that don’t own cars. They live in the apartment complexes and need a safe way to get to their shopping destinations,” the mayor said.

The street lights are placed close together because the Highway Department says no light can shine into the driver’s eyes. The light shoots down and do not blind drivers,” Cypert said.

Stumbaugh had a different view. “I love this town and think it needs to be more beautified. While those street lights are pretty, you’ll have plenty of time to look at them stuck in traffic. It started with three lanes and still has three lanes. The answer to the problem is $310 million. Where do we get that? We’ve got to continue on like the mayor said,” Stumbaugh said.

“I think the timing of the (signal) lights is pathetic. Traffic was awful then, and it is still awful. The timing of the traffic lights can be changed and improved upon as permissible by the Highway Department. Every one of these street lights are on a state highway and you have to go through (the Highway Department) to get permission of changing those times,” Stumbaugh said.

Stumbaugh said when he was mayor the city hired a traffic engineer from Hot Springs. The city lights were timed through the cooperation of the Highway Department. Traffic moved better then, he said.

“This town needs many things. One of things I think this town needs is a street sweeper. Our town is dirty, our streets are dirty, and we need something that’s going to clean this place up. A little bit of money will fix a whole lot of things,” Stumbaugh said.


John Hudspeth is seeking to represent voters in northeast Lonoke County communities of Woodlawn, Butlerville and residents living east of Hwy. 31.

“The main reason I want to run is to let people in my district know what was happening, so they wouldn’t get blindsided,” Hudspeth said.

Hudspeth said the Butler-ville Fire Chief came to the Lonoke County Quorum Court meeting and wanted the county to impose an additional $50 onto the property tax of residents living in the Butlerville fire district.

“Which is probably a good thing, but the people ought to know about it and vote on it,” Hudspeth said.

“I griped about politicians all my life and so decided to get my feet wet,” Hudspeth said.

SPORTS STORY >> Jacksonville hosts thorn in its side

Leader sports editor

Jacksonville puts it all on the line when it hosts the Mills Comets at 7 p.m. Friday at Jan Crow Stadium. The game pits Jacksonville, (2-6, 2-3) a team that still has serious playoff aspirations, against Mills, a team with none. The Comets (2-6, 1-4) are eliminated from postseason contention, but as far as Jacksonville has been concerned the last three years, the Mills Comet originated on Krypton.

Jacksonville has faced Mills the last three years with the playoffs on the line all three times, and once with a potential conference championship on the line. In two of those, Jacksonville was clear favorites, and Mills won all three.

“They’ve done us in the last few years,” said Jacksonville coach Barry Hickingbotham. “We’re going to have to be our best. We’ve basically just had some bad games against them, and that’ll cost us big if it happens this time.”

The 2014 Comets are built around tailback Caleb Peters. Mills coach Pat Russell even changed the offense this year to accommodate such a weapon, switching from the Spread to the Pro-I formation. The 5-foot-10, 195-pound back is already over 1,000 yards rushing this season, and has a touchdown run of 50 yards or more in all but one game.

“He’s just throwing people off of him,” Hickingbotham said of Peters.

It’s of particular concern for the head Red Devil, who hasn’t been pleased with his team’s tackling at times this year.

“We’ve had some good games and we’ve had some bad ones, and we’re going to have to have a good one this week,” Hickingbotham said. “When he gets past people they don’t chase him down, and if they do, he just stiff arms them and keeps going. You’ve got to make sure you wrap him up and get him to the ground or he’s going to run for a while.”

Jacksonville also features a standout running back in Lamont Gause, who has averaged almost 100 rushing yards per game and is well over that in total yards from scrimmage.

“Week in and week out, I don’t know if there is another conference in this state that has the tailbacks this one has,” Hickingbotham said.

“Mills has the size on the line to open holes for Peters, and a strong-armed quarterback in Race Rodgers who helps to keep defenses honest and not load up on stopping the run.

“You look at them on film and you think it’s hard to find weaknesses,” Hickingbotham said. “They’ve got talent. I think they’re dealing with a lot of the things we’re dealing with. They don’t have a lot of depth, quarterback doesn’t have a lot of experience, and they do some things to shoot themselves in the foot. But we can’t go in there expecting them to make mistakes. That’s a talented and dangerous football team.”

SPORTS STORY >> Bears hosting Badgers in big 5A-Central game

Leader sports editor

Eight games down and only two are left in the regular season, and playoff scenarios begin to take shape. There are still several possibilities remaining in the 5A-Central, but this weekend’s matchup between Beebe and Sylvan Hills will be huge in determining which ones of those could still play out after nine games.

The Badgers travel to Sylvan Hills’ Blackwood Field for a 7 p.m. kickoff between two teams who, at the beginning of the season, were considered among the three heavy favorites to finish at the top of the league standings.

And even though Beebe has two conference losses, including an upset loss in overtime to McClellan, the Badgers could still finish as high as second place. Sylvan Hills is currently undefeated at 8-0 and 5-0 in league standings, but could still win an outright conference championship, or finish as low as a four seed. And there are numerous possibilities in between.

What matters this week, for both teams, is this week.

Beebe (3-5, 3-2) has endured what was a disastrous first half of the season. Almost half its starters have missed at least a game this season, and 16 turnovers in the first four games got the Badgers off to a 0-4 start, including the loss to McClellan – when Beebe turned it over on the first play of overtime.

The Badgers have only turned it over twice since then and have gone 3-1. They will also be as close to full strength as they have been all season when they take on the Bears.

“We had pretty much everybody we planned on having last week,” said Beebe coach John Shannon. “We were able to sit our starters at halftime and get them some more rest heading into this game. And we need them all because this is a big one.”

Sylvan Hills coach Jim Withrow believes he’s catching the Badgers at their best, but was glad to have played McClellan last week. The Lions run the same Dead T offense as Beebe much of the time, which gave his defensive players a clue what to expect this week at home.

“I think it helped us, I definitely do,” said Withrow. “McClellan doesn’t do it all the time and I don’t think they’re as refined at it as Beebe is, but it always helps. It’s very difficult to give your starters that kind of a look in practice.”

One key difference, besides refinement, is size.

“McClellan had some big boys out there but looking at Beebe on film, it looks like they’re guys are tall, too,” Withrow said. “I don’t know if we’ve seen an offensive line as big as theirs this year.”

Conversely, Shannon was equally impressed with Sylvan Hills’ offensive line.

“Everybody knows about and will tell you about their quarterback, and those two running backs and that wide receiver, but what jumped out on film to me was that line,” Shannon said. “It’s probably the best offensive line we’ve seen all year. They have a lot to do with all those skill players getting all those yards and points they’ve been getting.”

Beebe’s defensive approach will be one akin to defending the option, because Shannon believes Sylvan Hills is basically an option team.

“Even though they line up in the spread, it’s really like an option team,” Shannon said. “We have to play sound defense and play our responsibilities. We have to play good assignment football and then we have to be able to tackle. They get a lot of yards after contact because those skill players are so good. We have to be sure tacklers and not let that happen.”

Withrow believes his defense continues to improve each week. It started the season with only three returning starters, compared to 10 on offense. But after a week-two shootout with Hot Springs Lakeside, the defense hasn’t yielded that many points. Last week’s 28 to McClellan was the most since Lakeside, and the Lions’ special teams scored one of those touchdowns.

“I think they’re getting better with every game,” Withrow said. “But I think this will be one of our toughest challenges. We just have to go out there and keep getting better.”

Beebe’s offensive approach won’t change. Shannon expects yards to be hard-fought, but hopes his team can capitalize on Sylvan Hills’ propensity to take risks.

“They’re aggressive,” Shannon said. “They give you different looks, shoot gaps and try to give you a bad play. Hopefully we can pop a few big ones, take advantage of that and get them to play a little more honest.”

Getting Sylvan Hills to play more honest could mean longer, more time consuming drives for Beebe, which is a weekly goal for the Badgers.

“We need to get some stops and get the ball to our offense, or they’ll keep it away from you the whole game,” Withrow said.

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot faces big, speedy Hurricanes

Leader sportswriter

The Cabot Panthers will be seeking their fourth 7A/6A-East Conference win of the season Friday at home against Jonesboro, one of the top teams in Class 6A, in a 7 p.m. kickoff.

The Hurricane have had a solid season so far, and entering Friday’s week-nine matchup, Jonesboro has been ranked as high as third in Class 6A, and Cabot head coach Mike Malham said it’s going to be the toughest team his group has faced since North Little Rock in week four.

“They’ve probably got the best talent in the conference outside of North Little Rock,” said Malham. “They’ve only lost two games, and the two teams that beat them (NLR and Conway) are two of our three losses, and they put some points on both of those teams. So it’s going to be a tough one.

“It’s kind of going to give us a gauge on where we’re at right now – after losing two of our better players, (Jarrod) Barnes and (Jake) Ferguson. But we’ve got a week to get ready for them.”

Cabot (5-3, 3-2) took the field last week against Mountain Home with some different looks on both sides of the ball.

Jess Reed, who normally plays halfback, took over quarterback duties for starter Jarrod Barnes, who will likely miss the rest of the season after breaking his thumb against Little Rock Central in week seven.

Starting receiver/free safety Jake Ferguson tore his meniscus in week six against West Memphis. He, too, is likely out for the remainder of the season, and with him out, the Panthers’ offense, for the most part, went back to a two tight end set. On defense, linebacker Jack Whisker moved to the secondary to help fill the gap left there.

In the preseason, the coaches in the conference picked Jonesboro to finish second in league play, and so far that’s been the case.

The Hurricane enter week nine with a 6-2 overall record, and their lone loss in the East came against North Little Rock in week six, giving them a 4-1 conference record.

Offensively, Jonesboro’s biggest strength is at the skill positions, and other than NLR, Malham said the talent there is incomparable to any other team in the conference.

“They’ve just got great skill people,” Malham said. “They’re a lot like North Little Rock. They’ve got receivers, they’ve got running backs, their quarterback is very mobile. They spread the whole field and they can put points on the board. They’re very athletic.”

Senior QB Carson Coats (6-1, 185) leads the Hurricane’s balanced Spread attack. Coats, a true dual threat, played receiver last year, catching 38 passes for 438 yards and four TDs, but has shown he’s very capable of getting the job done with his arm as well.

Two weeks ago against West Memphis, a team both Cabot and Jonesboro beat handily, Coats completed 16 of 17 passes for 242 yards and four TDs. Senior Darren Veasley (5-5, 168) leads the Hurricane backfield. Last year as a junior, he ran for 819 yards and seven touchdowns on just 127 carries.

Deavion Binion (5-8, 168) lines up at receiver and running back for Jonesboro. Veasley and Binion are just two of the Hurricane’s skill players that run at least 4.5 40s.

Defensively, the Hurricane typically base out of a 3-4, but Malham expects the Jonesboro defense to stack the box against his run-heavy team, like just about every other opponent’s defense does.

“They’ll probably do what everybody else does,” Malham said. “If you stop our run then you’ve got a pretty good chance. With Jake and Barnes out, that kind of hurts our throwing game a little bit. We only threw two passes last week, and they were both incomplete.

“So I’m sure they’re going to see what happened against Central and see what happened against Mountain Home, and I would expect to see some people up there.

“But I’m looking forward to this week just to see where we’re at and what I think we can do in the playoffs, because this team is going to be as good as anybody we’ve played since North Little Rock.”

SPORTS STORY >> Beebe falls in first round

Leader sports editor

JONESBORO – The Beebe Lady Badgers proudly carried their 5A-Central Conference championship and No. 1 seed into the state tournament on Tuesday at Valley View High School, but were sent home quickly after a 3-0 thrashing by Batesville.

A bevy of unforced errors told the story for Beebe. They started early and never stopped, and none of the games were particularly close. The Lady Pioneers, the four seed from the powerful 5A-East, won by scores of 25-13, 25-16 and 25-15.

“It was not our day,” said Beebe coach Ashley Camp. “Nerves got to us to say the least. We were so out of sync and had so many unforced errors. That has not been characteristic of this team all year long, but it certainly showed up in this one.”

The collapse began about halfway through game one when Batesville’s Hayley Cormican took serve with the Lady Pioneers leading 10-9. She served five-straight points to put her squad up by six. Hannah Qualls got two big kills during the run and Beebe gave away two points with errors.

Camp called timeout and Beebe broke serve, but was broken right back. That brought first server Sarah Hayes back to the service line, where she reeled off four more points for a 20-11 Batesville lead.

The Lady Pioneers raced out to a big lead in game two, and led 22-10 when the Lady Badgers put together their best rally of the match. Paige Smith served Beebe to within 22-15 with Jerra Malone and Gracie Rymel picking up two kills apiece. Batesville coach Ashley Ray called timeout and Batesville immediately broke serve. Beebe broke right back on a kill by Abby Smith, but Batesville finished out the second set for the win.

The Lady Pioneers scored the first four points of game three without a single kill or ace. All four points were the result of Beebe errors. The lead grew to 8-1 before Destiny Nunez aced Batesville and got two more service points on Pioneer mistakes to make it 8-4. Batesville then scored six in a row, forcing another Beebe timeout at 14-4. The two teams then traded service breaks until Beebe finally scored a point on serve to make it 17-9. Malone got a powerful kill to pull Beebe to within 17-10, but Abby Smith’s next serve went into the net, setting off a string of uncharacteristic errors that gave Batesville an insurmountable lead.

On Batesville’s next serve, Tara Plante and Paige Smith bumped into each other and flubbed a pass. Malone hit a routine kill shot into the net on the next point. Paige Smith’s pass on the next serve floated into the air and harmlessly back down to the floor between a trio of would-be setters. A Batesville unforced error ended the rally, but Beebe returned the favor when Sarah Clark and Paige Smith let a free ball drop between them to make it 23-11.

For as bad as the state tournament game went for Beebe, Camp is still optimistic about the future of her rising program.

“We had four juniors, two seniors and a sophomore on the floor to start this match,” Camp said. “They’ve got some experience now. They’re just going to get better and we’ll be back.”

EDITORIAL >> Vote to increase minimum wage

Old canards never die; they don’t even fade away. So it is that in 2014, with minimum-wage laws facing voters or legislatures, the cries go up, “My God, when you raise the minimum wage, you drive people out of jobs and hurt the economy.”

It is as baseless now as it was in 1938, when Congress passed the Fair Labor Standards Act, which fixed a 40-hour work week and the first minimum wage of 25 cents an hour, or the many times afterward that Congress raised the floor, or in 1968, when the great Republican Governor Winthrop Rockefeller pushed Arkansas’ first state wage law through the legislature, or the numerous times since then that the legislature has raised it.

Raising the minimum wage just never harmed the economy or drove people to the unemployment lines. The modest raises not only improved the hard lives of those who were at the bottom of the job chain but they gave a healthy jolt to the economy as a whole.

The June evening before he signed Fair Labor Standards into law, President Franklin Roosevelt told the nation in one of his fireside chats: “Do not let any calamity-howling executive with an income of $1,000 a day … tell you ... that a wage of $11 a week is going to have a disastrous effect on all American industry.”

But those are exactly the warnings this fall as Arkansas voters consider whether to raise the state’s $6.25-an-hour floor to $7.50 next January, then to $8 in January 2016 and to $8.50 in January 2017. Arkansas has not raised its minimum wage in eight years. The Arkansas law applies to employers with four or more full-time workers.

Polls show that Arkansas voters, now as in the past, heavily favor raising the minimum wage, which has not kept pace with either inflation or gains in worker productivity. Nearly everyone who has ever labored for a wage or salary has an innate sense that there should be a bedrock value for work—that all honest toil, no matter how taxing or menial, deserves to be rewarded with a wage that enables the worker to clothe and feed his or her family.

We take some pleasure in noting that even conservative Republicans have largely come around to saying they will vote for the wage act. Even the libertarian U.S. Senate candidate Tom Cotton, who believes the government has no business passing laws and rules that restrict how corporations treat their employees, customers or the environment, said he would vote for the Arkansas wage proposal.

Only banker French Hill, the Republican candidate for Congress in the Second District, opposes it. Hill, who enjoys family wealth and who made a small fortune selling his bank this year, opposes it. He said it’s not a way to get a genuinely poor person out of poverty.

The editors at the statewide newspaper, the Arkansas Democrat Gazette, raised the usual dire warnings about raising the wage floor for Arkansas’ poorest workers. They embraced the old notion that teenagers who work at takeout burger counters are about the only people making the minimum wage and if the fast-food joints have to raise their pay they will just fire lots of them and perhaps other employees as well. The editorial said Arkansas voters should defeat the wage act and then wait a few years to see what happens if you raise the minimum wage. It suggested waiting to see what effect Seattle’s minimum wage law has when it is fully implemented between now and 2021. The Seattle city council raised the city’s minimum to $15 an hour over several years. Big national corporations with operations in Seattle will have until 2017 to pay $15 an hour and to 2018 if they have employee health insurance. Other Seattle employers will have until 2021 to reach $15. So Arkansas’ big corporate newspaper would have us wait until 2021 to see if its predictions of woe are borne out.

But what is wrong with history? Already, we have 75 years of experience with minimum-wage increases and 45 years with Arkansas’ own minimum wage, which applies to employers with four or more full-time employees.

As it happens, we have the immediate experience of 13 states that have raised their minimum wages the past year. Did they put teenagers and adults with high school educations or less out of work, as the Democrat Gazette says happens? Comparing those 13 states with the 37 that did not raise their wage floors, federal data shows that jobs were growing faster in the 13 states than in the others. Two University of Delaware economists examined the data in the states closely and concluded: “There is no evidence of negative employment effects.”

What about Arkansas? Governor Mike Huckabee called the legislature into special session in 2006 to raise the wage. The act he signed raised it to $6.25 effective Oct. 1 that year. For the next year, according to monthly labor statistics, the Arkansas job market remained stable. In fact, Arkansas employers added 5,000 jobs. The great Bush recession started 15 months after our wage law took effect, so it is pointless to look beyond that.

Over the long course of history in the United States and in Arkansas, there is no record of the kind of calamity following minimum-wage increases that the Democrat Gazette and others always predict.

If only all the issues on the ballot were so easy as this one. —ErnieDumas