Traveling Arkansans Back On The Campaign Trail For Hillary

Feb 8, 2016

A shot from a ABC News report on some Travelers who were campaigning in New Hampshire in November, 2015.

A group of 87 Arkansans is in New Hampshire campaigning on behalf of Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. The volunteers—known as the Arkansas Travelers—first organized in the 1992 presidential campaign for then-Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton.

Sheila Bronfman, an Arkansas-based government affairs professional and political consultant, is the lead organizer of the group. She says the Travelers are emphasizing their personal connection to the former First Lady, US Senator and Secretary of State as they knock on the doors of New Hampshire voters.

“We talk to them about the Hillary we know and the person who doesn't just state a position or advocates a policy, but who actually goes out and works for what she believes in,” she says.

Bronfman says a variety of volunteers from doctors, lawyers, educators, home-makers and students are all part of the team. Several in the group are former elected office-holders. Including former Governor and U.S. Senator David Pryor, his son, former Arkansas Attorney General and US Senator Mark Pryor and former Pulaski County Judge Buddy Villines.

Former North Little Rock Mayor and 2014 Congressional candidate Patrick Hays is also one of the Arkansas Travelers for Hillary this year.

“Retail politics is mostly what we'll be doing,” he says. “And that is, visiting with folks, talking to them, telling them about the person we know face to face, not by reputation.”

Hays says he first encountered Hillary Clinton when he served as legal counsel for the Arkansas Secretary of State's office in the mid to late 70's, around the same time that Bill Clinton served as Arkansas's Attorney General.

Bronfman says the 87 Travelers are staying at the Exeter, New Hampshire Hampton Inn & Suites. In addition to door-to-door canvassing, she says they'll be working the phones, going to rallies and working the polls on election day. She says they plan to travel beyond Exeter to Portsmouth, Dover and Rochester in vans.

“We're doing anything we can to help Hillary win New Hampshire,” Bronfram says. 

Bronfman says she was inspired to form the Travelers in 1991 after seeing a group campaigning for former President Jimmy Carter called the “Peanut Brigade,” consisting of friends of the former peanut farmer and Governor from Georgia.

Bronfman says she wanted the Travelers to be a way for supporters of Clinton to get involved in campaigning without having to donate a significant sum of money or quitting their day jobs to spend many grueling weeks working directly for the campaign.

Bronfman, also campaigned for Hillary Clinton during her 2008 bid for the White House (a group of Travelers also campaigned for former NATO commander and Arkansas-native General Wesley Clark in his 2004 bid). She says she likes to emphasize the former Arkansas first lady's accomplishments in the state, like helping to found the Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters (HIPPY) Program and Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families.

Bronfman says the Travelers' work will not stop in New Hampshire this campaign cycle.

“We've already been here once. We're here now. We're going to go to Tennessee and work Arkansas at the end of the month. We've got folks in Arkansas who are phone banking and working hard every night to contact voters. So we do a lot of different things,” she says.

After narrowly winning a majority in the Iowa Caucuses last week, Clinton trails Democratic rival US Senator Bernie Sanders in a Real Clear Politics average of polls for the New Hampshire Democratic primary. As of February 7, Clinton had 40.5 percent support among likely Democratic voters in the state, compared to Sanders' 53.3 percent.

Nationally, Clinton's lead over Sanders was still strong based on the RCP average. She had 49.3 percent support compared to Sanders' 36 percent support.