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Laying low and considering options

Two potential Democratic challengers to U.S. Sen. Blanche Lincoln’s re-election bid are playing it close to the vest as the March political filing period approaches.

A campaign spokesman for Lt. Gov. Bill Halter says today nothing has changed as Halter eyes a political shift.

“The lieutenant governor continues to focus on his re-election while also considering the available options to best serve Arkansans,” says Halter campaign pitchman Bud Jackson.

Meanwhile, state Senate President Pro Tem Bob Johnson, who previously made noises about a possible U.S. Senate run, says today he is focusing on the current legislative fiscal session and intends to “lay low” for now.

“We’re talking about two subject matters: budget and lottery,” Johnson says.

The one-week filing period for political office starts March 1. The fiscal session is scheduled to recess March 2 and adjourn March 9.

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Lincoln meets with first lady

Sen. Blanche Lincoln reports that she met with First Lady Michelle Obama at the White House today to discuss ways to combat childhood obesity.

As chairman of the Senate’s Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee, Lincoln will oversee reauthorization this year of the Child Nutrition Act.

“The prevalence of childhood obesity is an alarming trend, with one in three American children now considered overweight or obese,” Lincoln said in a news release. “Although we have our work cut out for us, we are not going to be starting from scratch. Programs in Arkansas have been making great strides to encourage more nutritious eating habits among our children, to get them physically active and to promote healthier lifestyles. I was proud to share these successes with the First Lady.”

Also attending the meeting were Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack; Secretary of Education Arne Duncan; Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius; Senate Agriculture Committee member Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga.; Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Tom Harkin, D-Iowa; Senate Health Committee member Mike Enzi, R-Wyo.; House Education and Labor Committee Chairman George Mill, D-Calif., and House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson, D-Minn.

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Huckabee on TV tonight

After releasing a prepared statement and talking to Fox News Radio about his decision nine years ago to commute the prison sentence of Maurice Clemmons, now suspected in the slayings for police officers in Washington state, Mike Huckabee is getting another chance to explain.

The press team for the former Arkansas governor reports he will appear on The O’Reilly Factor with Bill O’Reilly tonight. The shows airs at 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. CST on Fox News.

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Meeks enters race against Snyder

David Meeks of Conway, who formed an exploratory committee earlier this month, announced today his candidacy to run against Democratic incumbent  U.S. Rep. Vic Snyder to represent Arkansas’ 2nd district.

Meeks, whose work includes teaching at a charter middle school for inner-city youth and as a project manager for Blue Cross and Blue Shield in Florida, has been speaking across the state for conservative groups since announcing his exploratory committee and has been active in social media, forming both facebook and twitter accounts, and maintaining the Web site, whoisdavidmeeks.com.

Meeks is the first Republican to announce his intentions to oppose Snyder.

Snyder is one of Arkansas’ most tenured delegates, assuming his position, along with Rep. Marion Berry, D-Jonesboro, January 1, 1997. He has since rattled off six consecutive election victories, most of them landslide decisions.

Meeks is scheduled to speak to KARN News Radio today on the Dave Elswick show at 2 pm.

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Republican Meeks may challenge Snyder

Republican David Meeks has formed an exploratory committee and Web site to gauge a possible race against Rep. Vic Snyder, D-Little Rock, for Arkansas’ 2nd Congressional District seat.

Meeks, of Conway, formed the Web site whoisdavidmeeks.com to allow people to “find out who I am, what I believe, and how to get involved in the campaign,” the site states. The Web site also provides links to Meeks’ Facebook page and Twitter account, as well as information about his positions on various issues, upcoming events and ways to volunteer.

He is scheduled to speak today at 11:30 a.m. at a meeting of the Faulkner County Republican Women.

Meeks would be vying for the seat Snyder has held since 1997. Snyder, responding to rumors that he may not be seeking re-election, has stated definitively that he intends to run in 2010.

Snyder has been criticized in ads by the National Republican Congressional Committee for his vote to block an investigation into when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., learned about waterboarding by the CIA.

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Coalition hosts vigil for EFCA at Sen. Lincoln’s office

The “Turn Around Arkansas” coalition is rallying at Sen. Blanche Lincoln’s Little Rock office in an attempt to push her toward approving the Employee Free Choice Act, labor’s highest legislative priority.

The coalition, with members such as ACORN, Sierra Club, and the AFL-CIO, is hosting a 24-hour vigil, delivering hundreds of hand-written letters asking for support of the bill, and then rallying at the Arkansas Statehouse on Thursday.

Lincoln came out against the bill “in its current form” at a meeting of the Political Animals Club in early April, and has said her door is open to a possible compromise, yet one has not been offered by either labor or business.

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Berry votes for foreclosure relief

U.S. Rep Marion Berry, D-Gillett, at one time the target of television ads criticizing him for voting against a bill to help homeowners avoid mortgage foreclosure, voted for a revised version of the bill today.

In a news release, Berry said he voted for a new version of the Helping Families Save Their Homes Act that he considered an improvement over previous efforts.

“This bill did not contain the misguided ‘cramdown’ provision included in previous bills, which would have granted a broad new authority for bankruptcy judges to unilaterally modify the terms of mortgages, which would have raised the costs of borrowing for all.” Berry said in the release. “Instead, this bill takes positive steps to stabilize the housing market, expand housing opportunities  and assist those at risk of losing their homes.

“The bill reforms the Hope for Homeowners Program, which helps at-risk borrowers refinance their mortgages, and it urges lenders to work with borrowers to develop reasonable repayment terms instead of resorting to foreclosure,” Berry continued. “The bill also provides an increase in the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation’s guarantee of bank accounts, up to $250,000, which will further protect depositors, particularly small businesses.”

Senate Bill 896, which previously passed in the Senate, passed in the House today in a 367-54 vote. All four of Arkansas’ U.S. House members voted for the bill.

The liberal groups Brave New Films and BlogPAC launched an ad campaign last month criticizing Berry for breaking with his party to vote against an earlier version of the measure.

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You say you want a revolution

The folks at Mike Huckabee’s blog, Huck PAC, say they have been having “issues” regarding comments on the blog, so today they posted a list of guidelines, including the following rule for comments about the president:

“When commenting on the Obama Administration, please follow Governor Huckabee’s policy. You may not agree with the President, but he is the President. Please refer to him as such, and please refrain from using language such as treason, traitor, impeachment or violent revolution.

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Lincoln Day announcement?

Former U.S. Attorney Tim Griffin is slated to speak to the Saline County Republican committee at an annual gathering of the local GOP members.

Griffin is one of several names floating around as a possible opponent to two-term incumbent Sen. Blanche Lincoln in her 2010 re-election campaign. He announced his consideration of the running against Lincoln in December, but has yet to announce his candidacy.

Last week in an interview with the Arkansas News Bureau, Griffin said that whomever the candidate may be, he believes they must announce before June 1.

The Saline County GOP will host their annual Lincoln Day Dinner Friday, April 24th at the Bauxite Community Center at 7:00 p.m., with a reception in Bryant at Luigi’s Pizza at 5:30. Reps. Ann Clemmer, R-Benton, and Dan Greenberg, R-Little Rock, will host the dinner and reception respectively.

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Lincoln recovering

Sen. Blanche Lincoln’s office reports that the senator underwent successful outpatient surgery Monday for a herniated disc in her upper back.

On doctor’s advice, Lincoln has cancelled all public appearances this week so she can resume her official duties when the Senate reconvenes on Monday.

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