The Arkansas Republican Party primary race between Governor Asa Hutchinson and television pundit Jan Morgan pits one of the nation’s most popular governors against a far right firebrand, who made a brief mark on the national stage for banning Muslims from her firing range.
Take a listen to the full audio report in the link above.
Tuesday, May 22nd is Election Day. Polls are open from 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.
This is definitely not a friendly primary within the Republican Party. Both candidates say openly that the other is untruthful. Morgan says she won’t endorse Hutchinson in the General Election, if he wins the primary, and Hutchinson has declined to debate Morgan. So, why all the animosity?
Morgan’s campaign was unable to schedule an interview this month with KUAR but she spoke recently on Conduit News Radio with Paul Harrell, “He doesn’t want to debate me because he knows I’ll call him out on his record and I’ll tell people the truth. Suddenly the emperor will be standing there with no clothes.”
Hutchinson has a different set of reasons why he didn’t debate Morgan.
“There are two foundational things that are important whenever you decide to debate. One, can you be truthful about the facts? My opponent in the primary race has demonstrated she has no regard for the truth about facts. So it’s hard to have a debate under those circumstances,” Hutchinson told KUAR.
He continued, “Secondly, whoever wins a primary ought to be supported by the losing candidate. She said she’s not going to support the nominee.”
Hutchinson touts his first term in office as a success. The state’s unemployment rate has dropped and hovers near record lows. He told KUAR he is proud of tax cuts directed at middle class earners, and plans to lower taxes for top earners if he’s re-elected.
“We’ve cut income taxes by $150 million annually. That’s a lot to absorb. We’re going to be more aggressive next year and look at reducing it to a six percent rate, which is a very large $180 million reduction,” said Hutchinson.
Morgan thinks it doesn’t go far enough and that overall taxes aren’t being lowered. She says Hutchinson raises taxes elsewhere too often to make up for the cost of the cuts.
Morgan is critical of new taxes on e-books and digital music sales, soft drinks and candy, and on unemployment benefits. Those were raised to offset the costs of military retirement income tax exemption. Morgan spoke with KUAR when she announced her campaign in March.
“Although he will tell you he cut taxes, what he does is a shell game. He redistributes those taxes and then raises them somewhere else so that he can so he cut taxes,” said Morgan.
Hutchinson says overall the tax burden has indeed diminished. He says it’s important to be focused and responsive to governing realities, like funding state services.
“It’s a focused effort. It’s a gradual effort because you have to absorb this in a growing economy. But you also have to provide the increase in education that our Constitution requires. We want to make sure we keep violent criminals off the street. You have to provide these services and absorb those tax cuts through growth,” Hutchinson said. “We’ve done that. We’ve shown that we can do it and we’re going to continue to do it until we get to a competitive rate for the state of Arkansas.”
Morgan’s campaign, which is primarily geared toward attacking Hutchinson’s record, also turns its eye on the state budget. It grew by three percent last year to $5.6 billion.
“Every single year that he has been governor he has increased governor, which is not what the Republican Party is all about. We’re supposed to be the party of limited government, cutting spending, shrinking government, shrinking taxes,” Morgan said.
Hutchinson sees it as a reasonable, and small, increase in spending that went toward vital needs for a growing state.
“We have grown somewhere between $500-600 million over the last three and a half years, three budget cycles. During that time we’ve raised teachers’ salaries twice; we’ve built a $50 million expansion of our prison space. That’s the right thing to do. Healthcare costs have gone up. We’ve held them down because of some of our reform efforts but they still increase. They increase in the private sector and in the government sector as well,” said Hutchinson. “We’ve restrained that growth but its things you have to do when you lead a growing state,”
Beyond the budget are sharp divides on issues of immigration and religion. Morgan has railed against Hutchinson for saying bills to ban Sharia Law and sanctuary campuses in Arkansas are unnecessary. Hutchinson says such laws are unnecessary, given reality.
“The truth is I believe in enforcement and we ought to cooperate with federal authorizes when it comes to immigration laws. When there’s not a problem let’s not be passing laws,” he said.
Morgan’s fear of Islam extends beyond non-existent Sharia courts. She calls the world’s second largest religion, which is an Abrahamic monotheistic tradition dating back centuries, a terrorist organization and a cult. Audio tape dredged up by former state Representative Nate Bell of Morgan speaking to Grace Gospel Fellowship in Bentonville, shows Morgan calling for the First Amendment to be re-written to ban Islam, or any religion deemed to profess violence toward others.
“We have to say any religion in America that’s book of directives or Holy Book commands that its followers commit crimes that are against the laws of this country then that religion loses its tax exempt religious status and shall be banned from practice here and classified as a terrorist organization,” Morgan said to the church audience.
Hutchinson finds such rhetoric disturbing.
“It’s simply fear mongering. It’s playing to the lowest and basest instincts of people that they want to believe the sky is falling. Politicians, candidates, need to be able to appeal to our higher angels,” said Hutchinson.
Morgan says she’ll continue the Trump revolution in the Republican Party if she’s elected tonight. She advocated for Trump’s campaign well before Hutchinson lent his support to his party’s nominee.
“If we do this, if we the people pull this off in Arkansas, it is going to continue the tidal wave that Donald Trump started.” Morgan continued on Paul Harrell’s program, “If you truly get people out there with grassroots campaigning, putting boots on the ground and talking to friends and neighbors about politics, instead of being quiet about it, that the people can actually win.”
But unfortunately for her campaign, President Trump has endorsed Asa Hutchinson.