Arkansas’ 2nd District Congressional Candidates Discuss Hostile Political Environment

Oct 21, 2020

Candidates for Arkansas' 2nd District Congressional seat speaking with the Delta Grassroots Caucus on Oct. 14. Democratic state Sen. Joyce Elliott (left) spoke first, followed by U.S. Rep. French Hill.
Credit Delta Grassroots Caucus

With recent polling showing a razor-tight race for Arkansas’ 2nd congressional district, money from national political organizations is flowing into Arkansas. As voters are being inundated with negative advertising between the two candidates, they are about to get another chance to hear the candidates’ views.

Less than two weeks before Election Day, Arkansas PBS announced that Republican incumbent Rep. French Hill and Democratic state Sen. Joyce Elliott will be interviewed in back-to-back episodes of the program “Arkansas Week.” The shows will be aired Friday beginning at 7 p.m. and repeated Sunday beginning at 9:30 a.m. KUAR will broadcast the episodes Monday from 7 to 8 p.m.

The two faced off in a debate last week on the network of television stations.  Two days later on Wednesday, Elliott and Hill spoke during separate live forums as part of the Delta Grassroots Caucus’s annual meeting. Executive Director Lee Powell told the candidates he was disappointed there wasn’t more discussion about President Trump during Monday's debate.

“We were surprised that there was not hardly any reference to what the candidates thought about President Trump,” Powell said at the start of Hill’s session. Both candidates were questioned by Talk Business & Politics Editor-In-Chief Roby Brock and KUAR News Director Michael Hibblen.

When asked her opinion on President Trump’s job performance, Elliott chose to discuss her own political priorities.

“I could sum up what I think that the president should be working on by talking about what my priorities are,” Elliott said. “So many things I have as my priorities are the ones that are not being addressed in a way that’s effective. For example, small businesses across the country.”

Elliott said that with one in six small businesses closed because of the pandemic, the president should be focused on getting them back on their feet. She also brought up the need for transparency in federal economic recovery efforts, which she said Hill voted against disclosing. Elliott argued that if the nation had this transparency, people would know that the interests of large corporations are ahead of residents in getting federal relief dollars.

“I think that’s something the president should have spoken out against, and it is something that we should never have to have a question with things like public money,” Elliott said. “I think it’s really important that we remember that people are struggling.”

Hill addressed his feelings on the president’s job performance in terms of foreign and domestic policies. Regarding domestic policy, he voiced his support for cutting regulations, or red tape, across the federal regulatory bureaucracy.

On foreign policy, Hill asserted some difference of opinion with the Trump. He said, “the president has reiterated America is ready to lead in national security by reasserting our partnership in NATO, for example. By working for peace in the Middle East, by getting us out of the failed Iran nuclear deal and refocusing the area back on our partnership with Israel on bringing peace to the region. While I haven’t agreed with every tactic he has used on trade for example, I opposed across the board steel and aluminum tariffs.”

Hill and Elliott were also asked about the recent alleged plots by far-right paramilitary groups to kidnap the governors of Michigan and Virginia in retaliation for issuing lockdown orders due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Sen. Elliott suggested that President Trump has contributed to the current hyperpartisan political environment.

“There’s not been a positive tone set about working together,” she said. “I think attacks on democracy make people a lot more reticent about even participating, especially because of our leaders. But if you don’t figure out a way to work with other people, then you let this kind of thing happen. As far as I can see, very few on the Republican side have said anything at all about what's happened with the threats to these two governors."

Meanwhile Hill argued that Democrats have not spoken out on recent rioting that has occurred during demonstrations against police brutality. He said new allegations detailed in testimony by an FBI agent about plots ahead of Election Day show a new level of danger.

“Kidnap a governor? This is insane,” Hill said. “I think all leaders, President Trump, Speaker Pelosi – who has been very… she has not spoken out against this violence – and President Trump could do a much better job in his rhetoric about speaking out against both the left and right people who are using violent acts, or threatening violent acts. We need Speaker Pelosi doing that, we need Donald Trump doing that, we need members of Congress doing that.”

Hill said he’s glad that political campaigns in Arkansas have maintained a level of civility, as exemplified by the current political cycle.