LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Primary season is well underway and Arkansas candidates had the chance to square off in a series of moderated debates.
The “Day of Debates” hosted by the Arkansas Press Association was held at Union Station in Little Rock and comprised of candidates for lieutenant governor, secretary of state, attorney general, and governor.
Questions were sent in by members of the Arkansas Press Association and chosen ahead of time.
Out of all four debates, the run for lieutenant governor was the most buzzworthy, with 8 candidates vying for the one position. 6 Republicans (Dr. Greg Bledsoe, attorney general Leslie Rutledge, Doyle Webb, Senator Jason Rapert, Judge Joseph Wood, and Chris Bequette), one Democrat (Kelly Ross Krout) and one Libertarian (Frank Gilbert) took the stage to answer four questions.
They were: Will you be able to work with whoever is governor, regardless of party; if required, why are you qualified to act as Arkansas’ governor; can you preside over the state senate and mediate difficult debate; and what is one policy or agenda item you plan to pursue?
Some issues tackled included the ability to partner with the other party, with some saying they’d be fine to work with a governor on the other side.
“I have those results of working across those aisles,” explained Judge Joseph Wood (R), while Frank Gilbert (L) added, “I can work with Democrats and Republicans and have.”
But others were already making predictions, saying although they’ll compromise, they’d prefer to work with someone who shared their views and thought that would be likely.
“In 2022, Republicans are going to control every aspect of state government,” said Chris Bequette (R). Doyle Webb (R) added, “I have no doubt that a Republican will be elected governor of this state.”
Another major talking point was experience, with newcomers entering from fields like healthcare and social work.
“Politics has become too important to leave to the politicians,” said Dr. Greg Bledsoe (R). Kelly Ross Krout (D) chimed in, “I’m seeing what’s going on with our most marginalized communities…leaders need to serve everyone.”
Some long-time public servants touted their history in the Natural State, reminding voters they’ve seen them before.
“The last seven and a half years,” said Attorney General Leslie Rutledge (R), “I have made decisions every day on behalf of all 3 plus million Arkansans.” She was joined on stage by State Senator Jason Rapert, (R) who answered a question with, “I’m the only candidate that’s actually been serving and working on the state budget for twelve years.”
But with a stage full of passionate politicians, things got heated. At one point, Rapert called Bledsoe “Arkansas’ Dr. Fauci” while Bledsoe shot back by saying Rapert tweeted about healthcare workers while he was in the ER, adding, “No one in the state of Arkansas ever dialed 911 and asked for Jason Rapert.”
While candidates called out others on stage, some, went for entire parties.
“We have a bunch of rhinos,” said Bequette. “30% republicans and Mitch McConnell Republicans, it’s disgusting.”
After answering each question, the candidates were given 30 seconds a piece for a rebuttal.
The debate lasted an hour and 45 minutes and was the first in the four-debate-day.
Arkansas’ primaries will be held on May 24.