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Democratic Presidential Campaigns Work To Appeal To Arkansas Voters

Frederick Love Fred
Michael Hibblen

With less than a month before Arkansas Democrats vote in the presidential primary, the state is getting more attention from the candidates’ campaigns. Arkansas is one of 14 states that will be taking part in Super Tuesday on March 3, with early voting to begin Feb. 18.

The campaign of former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has a "Get It Done Express" bus tour that will be rolling through the state early next week. Bloomberg, who has visited Arkansas twice since announcing his candidacy, will not be participating, with the campaign saying that surrogates and supporters will hold three events in the state as part of the tour.

Michael Bloomberg
Credit Michael Hibblen / KUAR News
Presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg taking part in Little Rock's Martin Luther King, Jr. parade on Jan. 20.

A Fayetteville campaign office is scheduled to be opened Monday morning, then the bus will travel to Fort Smith for an event at a local brewery. On Tuesday, Columbia, South Carolina Mayor Steve Benjamin, who is co-chair of the Bloomberg campaign, is to lead a breakfast roundtable discussion at Arkansas Baptist College in Little Rock about economic justice and empowerment.

Earlier this week, former Vice-President Joe Biden got the endorsements of three African-American members of the Arkansas Legislature who spoke Thursday at an "Organizational Kickoff" event for the campaign. The candidate’s wife Jill Biden was also scheduled to speak, but campaign officials said weather caused her flight to be late, though she did later take part in a private fundraiser.

The campaign is working to regain momentum after a disappointing showing in the Iowa Caucus, which Biden called a “gut punch.” With 99 percent of the results in, Biden received just 15.8%, coming in fourth behind former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

State Sen. Linda Chesterfield of Little Rock helped organize Thursday’s event across from the state Capitol. She told KUAR News that she has liked Biden since first meeting him in 1996 at the Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles.

"I walked up to him and just said hello, and most folks just don’t have much time for you; he spent time speaking with me and just visiting, and just the decency came across to me," Chesterfield said.

She takes issue with Bloomberg because of his support of the New York City Police Department’s aggressive "stop-and-frisk" policy while he was mayor. In November, Bloomberg apologized for the public safety strategy which disproportionately saw African-Americans and Hispanics being detained and searched.

Biden serving as vice-president under President Barack Obama also clearly resonated with the crowd.

State Rep. Jamie Scott of North Little Rock called Biden the strongest leader among the Democratic candidates.

State Rep. Jamie Scott
Credit Michael Hibblen / KUAR News
Arkansas state Rep. Jamie Scott (D-North Little Rock) called Biden a progressive leader who has the ability to get things accomplished.

"I’m going to travel and do my best to do what I can to help him get elected," she told the crowd. "We just don’t put out our names on any candidate. If we’re stepping out there to endorse somebody, it’s because we believe that they have the skill set. Right now our nation is in a critical space and what we do next, who we decide to get out there and work for is very important because generations depend on us."

Arkansas House Minority Leader Frederick Love of Little Rock also endorsed Biden, citing his stances on foreign policy, healthcare, the economy and Biden’s character, calling him a great father.

With the candidate’s wife unable to attend the event as scheduled, Biden’s Southern Political Director Vince Evans spoke to the audience, saying it’s important that the Democratic Party have a nominee like Biden who can appeal to mainstream voters in states like Arkansas.

"We are not stopping. We’re going to keep going in this race, and this is going to be a long race. Ordinarily after Iowa, the field starts to winnow a little bit and there aren’t as many folks in the race as there was before Iowa, but everybody stayed in and so we go on," Evans said.

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