‘Top Line’ Candidate Corner: Bill Halter and the Advantages of the Insider’s Outsider

By Jonathan Blakely

Apr 5, 2010 3:06pm

ABC News’ Rick Klein reports: Lt. Gov. Bill Halter is challenging Sen. Blanche Lincoln in the Democratic primary for a Senate seat in Arkansas, in one of the most intriguing — and most bruising — primary match-ups of 2010. Halter, D-Ark., is running as an outsider against the second-term Lincoln. But he’s doing it with some of the advantages of an insider — most notably a pledge from major labor unions to spend $4 million on his behalf. On ABC’s “Top Line” today, Halter rejected the notion that his campaign is built on the support of interest groups. “A lot of this depends on what you think needs to be done in Arkansas in terms of representing average, working Arkansans,” Halter said. “That’s where the focus is, and I’m proud of the contributions that we’re receiving. I’m sure you — you guys have also noticed that we’ve been receiving contributions from literally over 35,000 folks from around the country, with the average contribution being $30. Contrast that with some of the other folks in the race who are getting PAC contributions, contributions from lobbyists, and the average contribution size is well over $1,000.” In a swipe at Lincoln, Halter said: “If you look down the contribution rolls of one of my opponents in this race, I think what you’re going to see is that she’s getting contributions in the hundreds of thousands and in some cases in the millions of dollars from insurance companies, from Wall Street, from other folks who have a great financial interest in the legislation that has been before the Senate.” Halter is positioning himself against the establishment in Washington — “Washington is no longer on the side of Arkansas families,” he states in the bio field of his Twitter feed — even as he seeks to join the Democratic majority in Congress. He’s targeted Lincoln in part for her vote to approve the Troubled Asset Relief Fund in the fall of 2008. “Arkansans wake up and they see that $700 billion of their tax dollars have gone into bail out banks and Wall Street institutions. At the same time, unemployment’s at a 25-year high. On top of that small businesses around the state are having great difficulty getting a loan, getting the credit they need to expand their business. You pile all of that together and then add on top that people wake up to banner headlines about Wall Street executives and investment bankers getting literally tens of billions of dollars in bonuses. It’s no wonder there’s frustration out here.” The money, he said, should have only been spent with more safeguards: “What I believe is there should have been a lot more accountability involved. It should — it should have had much greater oversight and I think that would have helped to prevent some of these terrible tales that people are seeing.” Though his campaign is getting active backing from the liberal Netroots, Halter said he has done much in his career “that would be widely viewed as conservative by some folks.” “With respect, I reject this idea that this is a left-right battle,” Halter told us. “I think that it’s easy for folks to try to summarize a race in one word descriptions but honestly, I don’t see it that way. … I’m sure there are some people that would like to frame the race that way because it might be to their political benefit.” And he conceded that Lincoln’s chairmanship of the Agriculture Committee is a benefit to Arkansans — but said that only matters if she can stay in the Senate. “It does, but you don’t keep that chairmanship if you don’t win the general election,” Halter said. Watch the full interview with Lt. Gov. Bill Halter — including a quick tutorial on how to pronounce “Arkansans” — HERE. We also checked in with Reid Wilson of The Hotline on the latest (yes, there’s more) controversy surrounding RNC Chairman Michael Steele, plus what to watch for in first quarter fundraising reporters. Watch the “Top Line” segment with Reid Wilson HERE.

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