The part of Little Rock, Arkansas that constitutes what is today House District 35 has, for as long as I’ve lived here, sent Democrats to the Arkansas General Assembly. The district runs along the northern-most part of town, and includes the beautiful Heights and Riverdale neighborhoods (by the way, you couldn’t pick a better place to live). With that history in mind, I have nothing bad to say about this year’s Democratic candidate, Clarke Tucker. He has had a successful legal career, has run a respectable campaign, and is a descendant of a family with rich ties to the city. And guess what? I’m a Democrat!
But, when I went to the early polls last week, I didn’t vote for him.
In what will probably be a difficult election for the Democratic Party, I chose instead to vote for Stacy Hurst, Tucker’s Republican opponent. I wrote this piece for a number of reasons. First, and most obvious, I really do want to see her win, and I hope to give some undecided voters reason to vote for her. More importantly though, I also want to discuss the context of her unique candidacy. Her candidacy represents something more than just a state race is a small district in Little Rock. I really believe that.
To begin, Stacy Hurst is a fantastic candidate on her own merits. She is a successful businesswoman, she has served well as a city director for Ward 3 for about a decade now, and has served for a long list of non-profit organizations. In terms of policy, Hurst is on the correct side of many important issues. Arkansas’s nationally famed “Private Option” will unquestionably go down as one of the great political achievements of Arkansas history—and Hurst supports the law as a centerpiece of her campaign. She supports pre-k expansion, and she has expressed to me personally a number of refreshingly progressive stances on some social issues. Suffice it to say, she believes that science classes should be science classes and not theology classes.
To really understand why I’ve picked Stacy Hurst though (and why I went out of my way to write this piece), it’s important to point out though that she and I don’t agree on everything. For example, she supports an expansion of charter schools, and I usually don’t. From discussions she and I have had (and let me not fail to emphasize that Hurst is approachable and eager to listen to everybody), she is unhesitant to acknowledge the issues on which she and I disagree. The truth is, issue by issue, Clarke Tucker is probably a bit closer to me than Stacy Hurst.
But, as I will explain, the context of this election makes me perfectly fine with that.
Because there’s a much bigger issue in today’s politics than any of the issues on which Hurst and I don’t agree perfectly. Quite plainly, too many Republicans are unwilling to compromise with Democrats. The daily reality for most of today’s Republicans is an ever looming three million dollar (career destroying) ad buy. Any politician who votes for or even suggests the most fleeting support for about anything with less than a perfect Heritage or Koch score can expect to be characterized everyday in a month long media blitz as a supporter of “Obama’s socialist agenda”. The list of extraordinarily conservative Republicans who have gone down this way is fascinating. Today’s biggest political issue isn’t a specific issue, but a culture of non-compromise.
And it is tearing our nation apart.
On this point—and I say this without qualification—Stacy Hurst is the most impressive Republican candidate I’ve seen in years. She has made it clear to the public and to the Republican Party that she is a different kind of Republican. In a time of partisan gridlock, Hurst has separated herself from her Republican colleagues by aggressively championing the importance of working with the other party. In a time when candidates of both parties are lured by the fundraising advantages of new and greater extremes, Hurst boldly describes herself as a moderate.
The glory days of the Democratic Party of Arkansas are probably over; Arkansas most likely will keep its fledgling Republican majority in power for a while. So, while Clarke Tucker would be a perfectly respectable representative to send to the General Assembly, Clarke Tucker will never be in the “room”.
Hurst, however, with her long-established record of public service and strong connections within the state—let alone that she’s a Republican—will be in the room. And in that room—which will contain no shortage of divisive and destructive ideas—we need people like her who will stand up for unifying and constructive ideas.
Cooperation has become a difficult road to steer in modern politics, but Stacy Hurst has chosen to embrace cooperation anyway. It’s easier for candidates to support compromise privately and without any real specifics, but Stacy Hurst has done so publicly and substantively. Stacy Hurst has chosen what is best in a time when what is best is what is hard.
For that reason, I have rewarded her with my stubbornly Democratic vote.