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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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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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Ross: Recession to be worst since 1920s

The U.S. could be just months away from “the toughest economic times of our lifetime,” U.S. Rep. Mike Ross. D-Prescott, said today in a conference call with reporters.

Ross said things could be worse. The $700 billion financial bailout plan approved by Congress last month should prevent another depression like the one that followed the 1929 stock market crash, he said.

“I think the actions we took in the financial sector back in October will avoid a 21st century Great Depression, but I do think we’re headed for the worst recession in our lifetimes, and I don’t think we’re anywhere near hitting the bottom,” Ross said. “I think we’re probably six months to perhaps a year and a half away from seeing the worst times that are ahead of us.”

Asked if the nation needs another “New Deal,” the economic recovery plan that Franklin Roosevelt initiated in the 1930s, Ross said it past time time for something similar.

“If you think about it, President Roosevelt and the WPA (Works Progress Administration) program and President Eisenhower and the interstate (highway) program were the last two presidents, one Democrat and one Republican, that made any significant investment in our nation’s infrastructure. I think it’s past time that we do that, and I think it’s a great way to jump start the economy,” he said.

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Fort Worth never crossed his mind UPDATE

UPDATE: Drew Goesl,  Rep. Mike Ross’ chief of staff, says staff overlooked the congressman’s planned trip to Fort Worth, which he is making on behalf of a personal friend.

“The bottom line is this is an old friend from Congressman Ross’ days from Young Democrats,” Goesl said. “He is just going out of friendship for lunch and coming back the same day.

“It is kind of a personal trip,” Goesl said. “It is of a campaign nature but it also is an old friend.”

When checking into the congressman’s campaign-related travel,  staffers “were not thinking about this,” Goesl said.  “This was not something that in any way we were not trying to disclose.”

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Is Mike Ross afraid of backlash from Razorback fans who dislike all things Texas?

Is he sneaking into the Lone Star State because he heard there was better barbecue there?

Neither of those explanations is likely, which makes it odd that the 4th District congressman’s staff didn’t mention Ross’ scheduled trip to Fort Worth on Friday to campaign for a constable candidate.

After Stephens Media published this article about the congressional delegation’s pre-election plans, a blog item from the Fort Worth Star-Telegram on Monday noted that Ross, D-Prescott, would be in town for a fundraising luncheon for Tarrant County Constable Sergio DeLeon.

That’s interesting news here, especially after this e-mail exchange from last week:

Stephens Media: “Is your boss appearing for anyone or going anywhere to campaign for someone else between now and Nov. 4?”

Brad Howard, Ross’ press secretary: “I checked in with our campaign person in the District. He said at this time there are no plans. I’ll let you know if something gets scheduled.”

DeLeon, contacted Monday, said the luncheon has been scheduled for about a month.

Ross office’s has not responded yet to explain why information about the Texas trip was not disclosed.

DeLeon said he and Ross are friends from two decades ago, when the two worked together on Democratic causes in Arkansas. DeLeon grew up in Bigelow and attended the University of Central Arkansas.

It’s unlikely Ross would lose political points for attending a fundraiser on behalf of his old friend. So why the secrecy, congressman? Is it really that bad for an Arkansan to help a Texan?

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Mark Pryor, movie star

Maybe Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., should have realized an on-camera interview with snarky comedian Bill Maher may not go as well as with, say, a fresh-out-of-college reporter at KFSM in Fort Smith.

The rookie may not have known that “indigously” wasn’t a word. Maher just plastered it across the movie screen when Pryor misspoke so that moviegoers could laugh at the senator.

And that’s what viewers did, repeatedly, Wednesday at an advance screening of Maher’s new movie, “Religulous,” at a Washington theater. The screening was open to reporters and members of various secular groups.

Maher and the film’s producers showed no respect for the state’s junior senator, though Pryor was in good company — there wasn’t respect for the world’s religions, either.

Maher’s blistering rebuke of all things religious framed the faithful as buffoons awaiting a false promise of a happy afterlife.

He interviewed Pryor about two years ago while the senator was a chairman of the annual National Prayer Breakfast. The meeting was in Pryor’s office, where his “Arkansas Comes First” sign is featured prominently on his desk.

Maher’s face time with Pryor takes up about two minutes of the 101-minute film, but it was one of the more amusing segments for Washington movie-goers.

Maher poked fun at Pryor’s use of the word “literacy” in describing his views on the gospel: “I do believe in the actual literacy of that story,” Pryor said.

The audience reserved its loudest laughter of the night for the pair’s discussion of the Old Testament account of Adam and Eve and the serpent.

“You’re a senator, you’re one of the very few people who are really running this country. It worries me that people are running my country, who think, who believe in a talking snake,” Maher said.

Pryor’s response: “You don’t have to pass an IQ test to be in the Senate though.”

“Religulous” opens in limited release Friday.

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House dumps bailout

The House just rejected a Bush adminstration-backed plan to shore up the nation’s financial institutions by buying up bad debts.

The vote was 228 to 205.

Reps. Marion Berry, D-Gillett, John Boozman, R-Rogers, Mike Ross, D-Prescott, and Vic Snyder, D-Little Rock, all voted for the bill.

The stock market fell sharply in response to the House vote.

The White House and congressional leaders pushed the plan as a “necessary evil” to protect the economy from the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.

Opponents said the government shouldn’t be responsible for saving Wall Street firms that caused the crisis in the first place. Other bailout foes demanded more help for American homeowners threatened with foreclosure.

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Arkansas earmarks

Congress is set to approve a major appropriations package before lawmakers leave Washington for the year, which means press offices are eager to hit the send button on e-mail press releases that herald the dollars obtained for projects back home.

Thanks to the watchdog group Taxpayers for Common Sense, here’s a list of the earmarks in the three appropriations bills headed for the president’s desk — a first look at what Arkansas lawmakers will be touting when they return to the Natural State.

Nearly $50 million worth of earmarks for Arkansas projects are contained in the Defense, Military Construction-Veterans Affairs and Homeland Security fiscal 2009 appropriations bills.

Lawmakers are expected to take up the eight other spending bills when a new Congress convenes in January.

Here are the projects for Arkansas, listed by sponsor:

Rep. Marion Berry, D-Gillett, and Sens. Blanche Lincoln and Mark Pryor, both D-Ark.:

$1.6 million for biological air filtering system technology;

$800,000 for spectroscopic materials identification center;

$2.8 million for a standoff hazardous agent detection and evaluation system;

$10.9 million for a new National Guard readiness center in Cabot.

Berry:

$50,000 for pre-disaster mitigation for the city of Wynne.

Rep. John Boozman, R-Rogers:

$750,000 for Sebastian County’s emergency operations center.

Boozman, Lincoln and Pryor:

$3.2 million for development of mobile combat support hospitals, which could be manufactured in Russellville;

$204,000 for a infantry platoon battle course at Fort Chaffee;

Boozman and Rep. Mike Ross, D-Prescott:

$800,000 for the center for nanoscale biosciences at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville and UA-Pine Bluff.

Ross, Lincoln and Pryor:

$8.8 million for mortar and grenade production at the Pine Bluff Arsenal.

Ross:

$1.6 million for development of a lightweight, unmanned ground robot;

$1.6 million for grenade production.

Rep. Vic Snyder, Lincoln and Pryor:

$2 million for advanced functional nanomaterials for biological processes;

$1.6 million for silicon carbide torso plates;

$1.6 million for information quality tools for persistent surveillance data sets;

$4 million for the engine shop replacement at Little Rock Air Force Base.

Lincoln and Pryor:

$1.6 million for advanced field artillery tactical data systems;

$2.5 million for nanoscale biosensors;

$800,000 for nanotech lubricants designed for durability, energy-saving and sustainability of oceanic vehicles.

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