Tuesday was the first time voters had a chance to weigh in on the Arkansas legislature's sneaky passage of an anti-term limits amendment unscrupulous politicians are calling an "ethics" bill. It appears the voting public is not so easily fooled.
It was a special election called to fill a vacant seat due to the resignation of Sen. Paul Bookout in August after he was busted and fined $8,000 for spending campaign money on personal items. In Tuesday's run-off, John Cooper bested Dan Sullivan by a slim margin. Not surprisingly, ethics played a key role.
Cooper and Sullivan were running neck and neck, sparring particularly on a so-called 'private option' under the Affordable Care Act. They were virtually tied in the first primary election and appeared to be so going into the runoff.
At the end, with controversy growing about the deceptive anti-term limits amendment referred to the November 2014 ballot, Conduit For Action launched two post card mailers pointing out Sullivan's clearly stated support for the anti-term limit amendment. Cooper, on the other hand, signed a U.S. Term Limits pledge that he would take no actions as a Senator to weaken Arkansas state term limits.
Given the slim margin of victory (it appears the final count will be less than 100 votes), it is suggested Cooper's embrace of the popular voter-approved (twice!) term limits law put him over the top.
"Cooper and Sullivan differed over whether a proposed constitutional amendment that weakens term limits was a good one or a bad one," said Dan Greenberg, president of the Advance Arkansas Institute, a nonprofit public policy research organization. "Cooper thought it was a bad idea and the final tally suggests the voters agreed with him."
Ironically, it was this deceitful "ethics" bill that may have sunk Sullivan's candidacy, in a seat where unethical behavior led to the special election in the first place.
Cooper will face Democrat Steve Rockwell in the special election, which takes place on January 14, 2014. As of now, it is unknown what Rockwell's position is on the anti-term limits amendment.