By Rick Kennedy, managing editor
With 19 days and counting before election day, the Hempstead County GOP’s Thursday night meeting was all about candidates, issues, polling sites, and preparations for the big day.
County GOP Chair Sara Darling predicted a big voter turnout in Hempstead County, and with it, she stressed participation and information.
“We need people to be informed about these issues as well as the candidates, and we need to get our people out to vote. This is an important election, and we don’t need people to sit at home,” Darling said.
The night’s main speaker was Darbie Kuykendall, a campaign manager for Bruce Westerman, the incumbent two-term Congressman from Hot Springs facing a strong challenge from Democrat Hayden Shamel, also from Hot Springs.
“The key in this cycle is getting out the vote; nationwide the Democrats are energized and they are getting a lot of attention. There is a chance they could regain the House, and if they do, it will be a rough two years for the Trump Administration,” Kuykendall said.
Although she said the US Senate was likely secure for the GOP, and Westerman himself was on solid ground, Kuykendall said “These are scary times for conservatives in this election, and everyone in the GOP needs to get out and vote for our candidates across the board. We are doing what we can to help everyone across the state, including French Hill, who is having a tight race.”
“We need to get out there, and we need to be saying that conservatives still have the best message that fits best with Arkansas and its people,” she said.
Kuykendall called the election one of both “high interest and high tension.”
“The stakes for everyone are huge,” she said.
The current Hempstead County Judge Haskell Morse, also made an appearance on behalf of David Sterling, a candidate with both Hope and conservative ties.
“I know David, and he is a bona-fide conservative candidate and Constitutionalist that we we can trust. He was a former assistant city manager here, and I believe his views and beliefs are much more conservative and clear than his opponent,” Morse said.
Sterling is running against a current Arkansas Supreme Court Justice, Courtney Goodson in what is supposed to be a “Non-partisan,” although Sterling has enjoyed an number of endorsements from Republicans across Arkansas.
County Clerk Karen Smith also spoke, and she said that early voting, in which registered Hempstead County voters can cast ballots ahead of big crowds on Tuesday, November 6, actually starts this coming Monday, October 22, at the Hempstead County Courthouse.
Darling also lead a discussion about the major ballot issues.
Issue Two deals with Voter ID, while Issue Three presents Term Limits. Issue Four is a statewide measure for limited casino gambling in four predetermined sites in Arkansas, while Issue Five is a measure to raise the minimum wage in Arkansas incrementally over the next two years.
Informally, the group generally favored Issue Two, rejected Issues Four and Five, and was neutral on Issue Three. Issue One: Tort Reform had been removed earlier Thursday by the Arkansas Supreme Court.
Also at Thursday night’s meeting was Hope City Board, Ward 6 candidate Carla Bryant; Bryant is challenging incumbent Steve Montgomery, who also serves a Hope’s current Mayor. Bryant did not speak at Thursday night’s meeting.
In other GOP news from the night, Darling commended the group on a series of successful recent public outings, including the Southwest District Fair booth and parade, and a Chamber community coffee event.
By Rick Kennedy, managing editor