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Lincoln to hold town hall meeting

U.S. Sen. Blanche Lincoln says she’ll hold a town hall meeting in Forrest City on Friday on the topic of child nutrition.

The meeting is scheduled to start at 2 p.m. at the Forrest City Civic Center. Lincoln says she plans to discuss the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, which she says will be the largest-ever investment in child nutrition programs.

Lincoln is chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry.

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Not all in fun

In the spirit of Halloween, national Democrats took ghoulish aim at would-be Republican challengers to Democratic U.S. Sen. Blanche Lincoln today with a YouTube video labeling them the “Scary Seven.”

“As the video points out, these seven candidates are simply not ready for prime time, and based on some of their actions, it’s downright scary that they are even running for the Senate,” the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee says in a news release.

The clip ridicules “ethnic slurs, degrading comments” and opposition to “common sense measures like equal pay for equal work” by some candidates who have announced intentions to seek the GOP nomination to challenge Lincoln’s bid for a third term in 2010.

The clip mentions state Sen. Kim Hendren’s reference to New York Sen. Chuck Shumer as “that Jew” at a Republican function; uses Curtis Coleman’s quote that one “might as well get a visa and shots” before traveling to Southeast Arkansas; says Conrad Reynolds implied President Obama is a domestic enemy; and suggests state Sen. Gilbert Baker dismissed the existence of inequality in the work place in opposing state ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment.

State GOP chairman Doyle Webb says the fact that Sen. Lincoln and her friends “are already slinging mud proves they plan to run away from the issues and focus this campaign on personal attacks.”

Also …

—Baker campaign spokeswoman Alice Stewart says it’s “disappointing, although not surprising,” to see Washington-style campaign tactics injected so early in the campaign.

Stewart refers to a legislative committee’s recent approval of Baker’s proposal to study gender-based disparities in government employees’ pay.

—Conrad Reynolds, a former career U.S. Army officer, says the remark he is being attacked for questions the policies of President Obama — policies “overwhelmingly rejected by the people of Arkansas last year and strongly embraced by Sen. Lincoln today.”

He says the DSCC’s attack smacks of Lincoln’s comment this summer when she referred to people who disrupted health care forums as “un-American.” The senator later apologized for the remark.

Other GOP U.S. Senate hopefuls not mentioned in the video are Fred Ramey of Searcy, Tom Cox of North Little Rock and Buddy Rogers of Rogers.

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Halter for U.S. Senate?

Democratic Lt. Gov. Bill Halter’s spokesman has offered a response — of a sort — to speculation by Washington Post columnist Chris Cillizza that Halter may launch a primary campaign for incumbent Democrat Blanche Lincoln’s U.S. Senate seat.

“The lieutenant governor appreciates the potential plans that others have for him. He continues to raise money for re-election,” Halter spokesman Garry Hoffmann said today when asked about Cillizza’s column.

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Speaking for Baker

Republican state Sen. Gilbert Baker says he has hired Alice Stewart as deputy campaign manager and spokeswoman for his U.S. Senate campaign.

Stewart, a former television news reporter, was spokeswoman for Mike Huckabee when he was Arkansas governor and later served as national press secretary for Huckabee’s Republican presidential campaign last year.

Baker, one of seven Republicans vying for the GOP nomination to challenge Democratic U.S. Senate incumbent Blanche Lincoln next year, says of Stewart:

“Her experience on the state and national level will be a great asset as we work to deliver the message of common sense, conservative leadership.”

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Lincoln: Transparency matters

U.S. Sen. Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark., says she wants Arkansans and all Americans to get a good look at health care overhaul legislation before it moves forward in the Senate.

Lincoln, who is up for re-election next year, says transparency in the process would help restore faith in government amid public uncertainty on the monumental issue. An initial vote could come by Friday, she says.

“What’s wrong with taking our time to ensure that not only do we get it right but there’s a comfort level in the people we represent? That’s important,” Lincoln told reporters during a conference call today.

In a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., Lincoln outlined a plan to post bill text and Congressional Budget Office cost projections on a public Web site at least 72 hours prior to the first vote to proceed to health reform legislation, before a final vote on the Senate bill and before a Senate vote on a House-Senate compromise.

The letter was signed by fellow Democratic Sens. Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Evan Bayh of Indiana, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Jim Webb of Virginia, along with Independent Joe Lieberman of Connecticut.

Lincoln said she would be disappointed if Senate leaders did not follow her plan but did not say specifically that she would not vote to advance a Senate Finance Committee bill if they did not do so.

“I reserve my right to vote to be able to move a bill forward based on whether or not we’ve come to an accepted agreement about what’s an appropriate amount of time to review these bills,” she said.

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It’s a boy

Conway businessman Conrad Reynolds, a candidate for the GOP nomination to challenge U.S. Sen. Blanche Lincoln next year, is a father again.

Reynolds’ wife, Rufiya, gave birth to Austin Robert Reynolds at 1:24 p.m. today at Conway Regional Medical Center, according to a release from Reynolds’ campaign. Austin’s birth weight was 8 pounds.

This is the fourth child for Reynolds. He also has a 17-month-old daughter and an adult son and daughter.

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Senate hopeful ‘disappointed’ with Baker

Conrad Reynolds, a Republican hopeful for the U.S. Senate seat now held by Blanche Lincoln, tells Jason Tolbert he is “disappointed” that state Sen. Gilbert Baker, a fellow Conway resident, has entered the race after telling Reynolds he didn’t want the job.

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Baker challenge remarkable

State Senate Republican Gilbert Baker’s entry into Arkansas’ U.S. Senate race today was a remarkable development in Washington.

Dueling Senate campaign fundraising committees rushed out scathing remarks against the other party’s candidate as if the 2010 general election, more than a year away, was already set.

Spokeswoman Amber Wilkerson of the National Republican Senatorial Committee had this to say about Lincoln:

“Today’s announcement by Gilbert Baker is another indication that Blanche Lincoln is facing an uphill battle in her quest for re-election in 2010.

“The growing field of Republican and Democrat challengers in Arkansas demonstrates Lincoln’s vulnerability, thanks in great part to her record in support of the Obama tax and spend agenda, including the massive stimulus bill, pork-laden omnibus and bloated budget.

“Lincoln has failed to lead on critical issues such as health care and card check, and has instead resisted taking positions entirely in order to preserve has own political future. As her sagging poll numbers indicate, Blanche Lincoln has lost touch with the people of Arkansas, and she will be forced to answer for her record next November.”

And this from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee:

“Gilbert Baker joins a crowded cast of characters better suited for a sitcom than for elected office.

“As Baker’s record comes under close examination, the people of Arkansas will find a Little Rock insider who repeatedly puts his own self-interest above those he has pledged to serve.

“He has never met a pork project he doesn’t like and will have to answer for his endless spending in Little Rock.”

Baker is among a half-dozen Republicans who have announced plans to seek the GOP nomination to challenge Lincoln next year.

Lincoln, a two-term U.S. Senate incumbent, could face a Democratic primary challenge from current state Senate President Pro Tem Bob Johnson of Bigelow.

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Avoiding the issue?

One way or another, U.S. Sen. Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark., figures to get an earful on health care reform while home for the congressional recess next week.

But she will not be doing so at a meeting scheduled specifically to talk about health care overhaul legislation pending in Congress — much to the chagrin of the state Republican Party chief.

State GOP chairman Doyle Webb wonders if Lincoln is trying to avoid such forums after saying this week that some opponents of health care reform were deliberately disrupting forums being held around the country, an act she initially described as “un-American.”

Lincoln later apologized for the characterization.

Webb says in a statement today: “People across Arkansas are concerned about the future of health care and have been waiting for the opportunity to speak with their elected officials about the Obama-Pelosi-Reid health care plan during the August recess.  I’m very disappointed to see Sen. Blanche Lincoln does not have a single health care town hall on her schedule.  These forums allow constituents to voice their opinion openly and honestly with their elected officials.  I certainly hope Sen. Lincoln is not trying to avoid vocal critics that she has referred to as ‘un-American,’ as they express their freedom of speech at public venues.”

A round table on veterans health care Tuesday in Little Rock and an address to the Mental Health Council of Arkansas on Thursday in Hot Springs are the only health-specific forums at which Lincoln is scheduled to appear in the state next week.

Her week-long schedule also includes appearances before civic groups, business and economic development leaders, county officials and Democratic groups.

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Beebe: Health care debate should be civil

Public debate over health care reform is healthy but should be civil, Gov. Mike Beebe said today.

The subject came up while Beebe was fielding calls on his monthly radio program, “Ask the Governor,” on the Arkansas Radio Network. A caller asked if Arkansas would be able to “push back” if a reform bill ultimately passed by Congress contains unfunded mandates for the states.

“I read or saw where both Congressman (Vic) Snyder and Congressman (Mike) Ross got some push-back the other day,” Beebe said, referring to a public forum Wednesday at Arkansas Children’s Hospital during which audience members heckled and jeered at the two Democratic congressmen.

On Thursday, Sen. Blanche Lincoln criticized the rowdiness of audience members at recent public meetings on health care. Lincoln told reporters Thursday that efforts to disrupt public forums are “un-American,” though she later said she should not have used the term.

“I think the debate on this is healthy, as long as it’s a civil debate,” Beebe said today. “I think people are scared, I think people are unsure, I think people are uncertain. Part of the whole democratic process is to voice those concerns to your elected representatives, and I think that is going on and I think it should go on. Again, I hope it goes on in a civil and constructive fashion.”

Beebe told the caller Arkansas would have to comply with any federal mandates, but he added, “We need to slow down a second here, because first of all, I don’t think anything that they’re talking about right now is necessarily what you’re going to see come out of Congress, based upon what I keep hearing.”

Beebe said there is “a whole lot of information out there that’s scaring the heck out of a lot of people,” including rumors that seniors’ health care will be cut off or rationed.

“It’s not going to happen, in my opinion, and if it does I will be one of the most shocked people around. I just cannot see that occurring,” he said.

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