Leader Blues

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

TOP STORY >> Candidates court support in Cabot

Trent Eilts, left, who is running for Lonoke County justice of the peace, meets with First Congressional District candidate Princella Smith of Wynne during a Republican meeting in Cabot on Monday.

By JEFFREY SMITH

Leader staff writer

Two Republican hopefuls battling for the First Congressional District seat in the May primary election made a stop on Monday night at Grandpa’s Barbecue in Cabot.

Congressional candidates Princella Smith of Wynne and Rick Crawford of Jonesboro both spoke at the Lonoke County Republican Committee’s monthly meeting. They are running for the seat being vacated by Rep. Marion Berry of Gillett, a Democrat who is retiring.

Smith, 26, said, “I’m running for this seat because I feel the First District of Arkansas can do better than it has been doing over the past century.”

The district hasn’t sent a Republican to Congress since the 1880s.

Crawford, 43, graduated from ASU-Jonesboro. He is a cattle rancher and has a syndicated radio program about agriculture.

He is an Army veteran who served in Pakistan in 1988 as an ordnance specialist.

In an interview with The Leader, he said he helped clean up a weapons depot that was blown up by Islamic militants near Islamabad.

He said he’s served on Secret Service details protecting Presidents Ronald Reagan and George Walker Bush.

He said he wants to bring business sense to government and end deficit spending. He said he has real-world experience and wants to be a citizen-legislator.

Crawford told the Republican group why he is running for Congress:

“I’m running for your kids, my kids and everyone’s kids in the (First) District. This county does not look like it did when I grew up. I want to give them something better than I got. I’m doing this for my parents and your parents because they deserve something better than we have,” he said.

Crawford said his goals if elected to Congress are “fiscal discipline, debt reduction and common-sense application of constitutional principles.”

He said for the nation to get out of the recession, “We have to grow ourselves out with the growth of small businesses. If we are going to save our country we have to make cuts on spending.”

Crawford spoke about illegal immigration. He said the biggest problem is the Southern border. He proposed building a defensible wall, not a virtual or a corrugated metal wall. The wall would have eight to 10 points of entry, he said.

After six to nine months of completion, undocumented workers would be required to register at these entry points. They would receive an identification card that requires annual renewable registration.

Crawford said immigration laws must be enforced to reduce the number of illegal immigrants.

As for taxes, Crawford said he thought a flat tax is a good idea “if we got rid of the income tax.”

Smith told the GOP committee, “I’m excited about the race because 2010 has presented us with an incredible opportunity to change local politics and the national scene.”

She said Washington is “broke.” “There is a swell of outrage,” she added.

Smith discussed her goals if elected to the House of Representatives.

If she wins, she’ll be the only black Republican woman in Congress.

“The first piece of legislation that I want to pass will address the financial crisis in our country and in Arkansas,” Smith said.

“I want to pass legislation that will allow banks more opportunities to give loans to small businesses, decrease regulation, provide tax incentives to businesses that are responsible to the environment and to have punishments for businesses that hire illegal immigrants,” Smith said.

She continued, “The second piece of legislation will address education. We need teacher-incentive pay. We need more technology in our schools. We need the ability for students to pass to the next grade based on ability and not age. We need a law that encourages peer-to-peer mentoring for administrators.”

A graduate of Ouachita Baptist University with a degree in political science, Smith has spent most of her time in Washington since graduating.

She worked for former House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s think tank, American Solutions for Winning the Future, becoming the voice that repeated his slogan promoting drilling for oil in Alaska, “Drill here, drill now, pay less.”

That job gave her national media attention with regular appearances on major networks, including Fox News and CNN, where she debated energy experts and Democratic strategists years her senior.

In 2009, Smith went to work as communications director for freshman Rep. Anh “Joseph” Cao (pronounced Gow) of Louisiana, but she resigned in January to explore the possibility of running for office after Berry announced that he will not seek re-election.