Arkansas U.S. Senate Candidates Spar On Presidential Nominees

Republican Incumbent Senator John Boozman, Democrat Conner Eldridge and Libertarian Frank Gilbert.
Credit AETN

The three candidates for U.S. Senate defended their parties’ presidential candidates and attacked the others in their first and only debate this election season.

At a debate at AETN, incumbent Republican Sen. John Boozman said the two candidates are “very flawed” but the “total package” was the reason he is supporting his party’s nominee, Donald Trump. He said Trump had put forth a list of acceptable Supreme Court nominees while Hillary Clinton in the debate listed personal qualifications but didn’t mention the Constitution.

He said Clinton would continue the policies of the current administration and criticized her for her use of a private email server as secretary of state and for her response to the attacks in Benghazi, Libya, where he said, “her first concern was covering her rear end.” The Clinton Foundation, he said, is “essentially a Clinton trust fund.”

“This country cannot take another third term of President Obama and all of the policies that he’s put in place,” he said.

His Democratic opponent, Conner Eldridge, said Trump did not have the temperament to serve as president.

”We should not give Donald Trump an open mic with American foreign policy,” he said. “We should not give him the nuclear codes. He has shown time and again that that should not happen.”

He said that Clinton’s use of a private email server was a mistake and said her description of Trump supporters as a “basket of deplorables” was “horrific.” He said the Arkansans he meets on the campaign trail are frustrated with both political parties.

Their Libertarian opponent, Frank Gilbert, said Trump “is an embarrassment to the Republican Party. He’s an embarrassment to the American people.” Clinton, he said, “is not fit to be president, either.” He said that because Trump will definitely win Arkansas’ six electoral votes, Arkansans are free to vote for Johnson and should do so to send a message to both parties.

Gilbert said his party had nominated two former governors, Gov. Gary Johnson of New Mexico as president and Gov. William Weld of Massachusetts as vice president. “They are men of good character, of competence, and of a steady nature that we need right now,” he said.

Eldridge criticized Boozman as an officeholder who had accomplished little in 15 years. He said the senator had been absent and silent too often. Boozman said he had worked to find common ground on the various committees where he has served in Congress, including with then-Rep. Bernie Sanders of Vermont when they both served on the Environment and Public Works Committee.

The candidates were asked what would be done with those who have insurance if Obamacare were repealed. Boozman said the problem with health care is affordability, which Obamacare did not address. Instead, it simply dumped a lot of people into the old system, turning it into catastrophic insurance with high deductibles. Health care needs more competition, tort reform, health savings accounts and cooperatives where similar businesses can purchase health insurance together at lower prices. Eldridge said 300,000 Arkansans now have insurance because of Obamacare, so repealing it would take health insurance away from one in 10 Arkansans and imperil rural hospitals. Costs must be addressed by expanding insurance pools, spreading risks, and reducing regulations. Gilbert said the crisis is in health care, not insurance, and a free market approach is needed. He suggested, without proposing, free clinics.

In their opening statements, Boozman said the Arkansans he meets are most concerned with jobs, the economy, regulations, health care and national security. Eldridge said he wants to serve all the people of Arkansas, including single mothers like his mother. Gilbert said the national debt overshadows all other issues.