Leader Blues

Friday, March 26, 2010

TOP STORY >> John Adams intends to fill Snyder’s seat

Leader editor

John Adams is one of five Democrats running for Congress in the Second District to succeed Rep. Vic Snyder (D-Ark.), who is retiring.

The winner of the Democratic primary in May will face either Republican Tim Griffin or Scott Wallace.

Adams, 33, says he supports the health-care bill that President Obama signed into law on Tuesday.

“I would have voted for the health- care and reconciliation bills, in spite of my concerns about their cost, because at least one in five central Arkansas working people need access to insurance coverage,” Adams says. “Our focus now should be on improving the bill and controlling costs.

Adams traces his roots to western Arkansas. His father, Al, was born on a farm near Charleston (Franklin County). His mother, Isabel, fled Cuba during the communist revolution.

He is a graduate of Yale University and the University of Michigan Law School. He practiced law briefly in New York before joining the Rose Law Firm in Little Rock.

Adams is an assistant attorney general who teaches constitutional law and tax-law classes as an adjunct professor at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock’s William H. Bowen School of Law. He volunteers with Big Brother-Big Sisters of Central Arkansas at Booker Arts Magnet Elementary School in Little Rock.

“I work every day to keep our families safe from crime,” he said. “I serve as an assistant attorney general in the criminal division, representing the people of Arkansas in state and federal courts and working to uphold our criminal judgments and sentences. In that position, I also get the opportunity to help make the state’s criminal laws more effective when they fail.”

Why are you running for Congress?

I am running for Congress to make Washington work for central Arkansans.

Why are you a Democrat?

I am a Democrat because the party stands up for people who work hard and play by the rules.

What can we do about health care?

I would have voted for the health care and reconciliation bills passed by the House of Representatives on Sunday night. We can and will improve the legislation, but it is long past time to prevent insurance companies from canceling policies and denying coverage after workers or their kids get sick, to help our small businesses afford to cover their workers, and to give tens of thousands of people in central Arkansas access to high-quality coverage. We need to immediately improve the bill by more aggressively tackling the rising health-care costs faced by families and our nation as a whole.

When it comes to health-care costs and taxes, what can we do to lessen the burden on individuals and small businesses?

The health-care reform legislation will start to ease some of the burden on small businesses and families struggling with exploding costs, but we need to encourage market competition and transparency to lower the costs of medical services.

Congress has discouraged small business investment by making small business taxes both too complex and too unpredictable with frequent changes to the law and various sunset provisions.

One practical step we can take to remedy this is to combine and make permanent all the various tax credits and incentives for small business investments Congress has passed in recent years.

How do we restart the economy?

The biggest single step we can take right now to restart the economy is accelerating the $160 billion in unspent stimulus funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Spending on infrastructure, in particular, both creates jobs now and reaps dividends for our children.

What kind of legislation would you support in Congress?

I will support legislation that does right by veterans, improves our schools and simplifies the tax code.

Who is supporting your candidacy?

Voters all over the Second Congressional District support me: working families who struggle to make ends meet in this difficult economy, students who want to start a family here in central Arkansas but worry there will be no work, business owners who believe the government should work for them and not against them, people who want to start a new business and work for themselves but are unable to purchase health insurance, and people from all walks of life who know the tax code does not work for them.

Will serving in the attorney general’s office prepare you for Congress?

Serving in the Arkansas attorney general’s office has been great experience. I have worked to keep criminals behind bars and improve the justice system, and seen the way that the federal government has at times both helped and hindered the efforts of our local communities to keep us all safe.

Along with my experience as a business lawyer and teacher, representing the people of Arkansas in court has prepared me to serve as a voice for central Arkansans in Washington.

As a business and tax attorney at the Rose Law Firm, I was able to work with local businesses and governments to help create jobs and meet the challenges of the turbulent, globalized economy.

I helped Arkansans craft business and estate plans, negotiated and executed numerous business transactions, drafted legislation, and advised my clients on federal, state and local tax issues.

Specializing in financial and tax law gave me extensive experience working with these complex and often burdensome rules from the perspective of Arkansas entrepreneurs and families.

What makes you different from your Democratic opponents and your potential GOP opponent?

My perspective, experience, and ideas make me different. Growing up in central Arkansas, working my way through school as a paperboy, dishwasher and landscaper, and later advising local families and entrepreneurs as a business lawyer here, gave me the private-sector perspective on the problems we face.

Teaching constitutional and tax law, and serving as assistant attorney general gives me the public-sector experience to make sure that government works for the people in our community. People in central Arkansas know that the political formulas we have seen from both parties—like promising big tax cuts and spending increases while we’re running a deficit over $1 trillion—simply will not work any longer, and I am offering practical ideas that will work.

How will you help Arkansas if you’re elected to Congress?

By keeping my focus on the military and budgetary issues where Washington most profoundly affects the lives of central Arkansans. All our veterans, including the brave men and women in my generation coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan, deserve a congressman committed to honoring their service not just with words.

I will make sure our veterans get better health care, educational and career opportunities. I will also work on refocusing and improving federal support for education in central Arkansas so that we can build lasting prosperity. Easing the burden on central Arkansas taxpayers must start immediately: The first bill I will file simplifies the tax-filing process to give us back the time in April that unnecessary paperwork consumes every year.

Why did you get into public service?

I got into public service because I want to help make sure our government fulfills its fundamental obligation to keep us safe and provide a better life for the next generation.

How close are you politically to Vic Snyder?

There are many areas where Congressman Snyder and I agree and some fiscal and foreign policy areas where we disagree. I very much admire his commitment to clearly state substantive positions on the issues and defend them on the merits.

Snyder has secured millions of dollars worth of projects for Little Rock Air Force Base. Will you support the base if you’re elected?

Definitely. The LRAFB and C-130s are an essential part of our national defense and humanitarian-relief capabilities. Over the last 55 years, the base has brought many of our friends and neighbors to central Arkansas and continues to play a vital role in our community and economy.

What does your family think about your running for office?

Like other families in central Arkansas, my wife Skye and the rest of my family make the youngest generation the priority in our lives. My family supports my public service because I will make sure that we have a government that will share that commitment to future generations.

Could you tell us about your parents, including your mother and her background?

My parents met in church while they were studying to become science teachers at the University of Florida. (As a skeptical teenager, I sought out third-party verification of the “met in church” part of their story.)

My father, Al Adams, grew up around family farms outside Charleston. He has taught physics at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock for 30 years. My mother, Isabel (Mesa) Adams, grew up around family farms outside Havana, Cuba. Her family fled the violence of the communist revolution there. Before she retired, she taught biology at high schools, including Mount St. Mary. They frequently talk about their grandchildren, visit national parks, and end grace before meals by giving thanks for “faith, family and friends.”

My family’s history also keeps me mindful of how lucky I am to live here. Because she fled Cuba’s political violence as a child, my mother never lets me forget the importance of freedom. Today I serve on the board of directors of the Arkansas Committee on Foreign Relations, and my pro-bono legal work has included helping to obtain political asylum in the United States for a Chinese citizen living in Magnolia and threatened with death if returned.

Both my parents are science teachers, so I was surrounded by great role models for classroom and individual teaching. Throughout high school, college, and law school, I volunteered as a reading tutor for public school students. I taught English and religion classes at Subiaco Academy and served as dean of the freshman dormitory.

Education gave me some great opportunities to explore the world and take on new challenges, starting with college at Yale. I accompanied Subiaco faculty and students as we tried to perfect our Spanish at a summer course on the coast of Spain.

At the University of Michigan, I was an editor of the Law Review. After law school, I worked for two years as a corporate lawyer at Davis Polk in New York. I completed business transactions all over the world for clients in the airline, financial, manufacturing, and media sectors. Through all these adventures, I never stopped wanting to come home.

Since my great-great-grandfather started farming in Franklin County, my family has lived and worked in Arkansas. Growing up around here was a great privilege, in all kinds of ways large and small.

I got to watch the Travelers win the Texas League at Ray Winder Field in 1989, deliver the Arkansas Democrat when there were still two papers, face adolescence with Father Tribou’s wisdom ringing in my ears, return home from a semester away to discover that the Whole Hog folks were not content to accept anything less than perfection in a barbequed rib, browse Lorenzen’s books, hike the Ouachita Trail on spring breaks and spend summer weekends at Greers Ferry Lake, see kids overcome all kinds of adversity and have a lot of fun at Camp Aldersgate, make lifelong friends at Governor’s School, and stand outside the Old State House in person on election night in 1992.

Central Arkansas has been a great place for my wife and me to start our own family, and I want to work to make sure that living here gets better still.