|Arkansas Democratic Party||
1300 West Capitol
Little Rock, Arkansas 77201
Phone (501) 374-2361
Fax (501) 376-8409
311 West Spring Street
Fayetteville, Arkansas 72701
Phone (479) 582-3721
Fax (479) 582-3726
|April 13, 2006
Rules and Bylaws Committee
RE: Application for Consideration to Become a New Pre-Window Primary State
The Democratic Party of Arkansas ("DPA") is pleased to submit this application for your review. We look forward to your partnership in our cooperative efforts to ensure that the presidential nominating process is fair and representative of our Party's overall values.
Our proposal requests that Arkansas be deemed a new pre-window state in order to further the interests of the Party in the selection of a presidential candidate.
As a strongly Democratic southern state that meets all criteria recommended by the Commission and adopted by the Rules and Bylaws Committee, Arkansas stands as a logical choice to audition Presidential candidates before the regular primary window. Last year, our state legislature overwhelmingly voted to reschedule our primary from May to February and our leadership stands firmly behind the DPA's efforts to again reschedule the primary in the pre-window period. Financing for such a primary schedule is secured statutorily as an expense of the state of Arkansas.
Historically, Arkansas has been a Democratic stronghold in the American south. Your selection of our state to hold a pre-window primary will enable the DPA to build upon the strong foundation that the Democratic Party has in place and to continue to produce an effective and consistent voting infrastructure.
Thank you for your interest in the state of Arkansas. We envision building upon our collaborative Democratic successes by developing a pre-window presidential primary with you.
EMAIL: firstname.lastname@example.org - WEBSITE: http://www.arkdems.org
Democratic Party of Arkansas DNC Pre-Primary Window State Proposal
The scheduling of the presidential primary plays a crucial role in the selection of our Party's candidate for President. With Iowa and New Hampshire at the helm, the primary process has historically been fluid with the goal of ensuring that the process is fair, open, inclusive and representative of the values of our diverse Party. The efforts of Iowa and New Hampshire have been invaluable to the selection of our Party's presidential candidate and through the inclusion of an additional state in the pre-window time frame the primary process will provide a more agile and broader appealing Presidential nominee.
The Rules and Bylaws Committee ("RBC") has set forth guidelines by which a state wishing to apply for pre-window status should meet, including racial and ethnic diversity, regional and geographic diversity, and economic diversity. It is the opinion of the Democratic Party of Arkansas ("DPA") that Arkansas overwhelmingly meets all criteria set forth and is thus a logical choice to audition Presidential candidates before the window. As a strongly Democratic Southern state, Arkansas rewards political candidates who can successfully navigate a range of issues rather than profess ideological purity and our state's rich tradition of festivals and "speakin's" have nurtured generations of colorful political characters and have sensitized our voters to retail politics.
Retail politics is Arkansas's bread and butter. Candidates find themselves at such events as the Hope Watermelon Festival's watermelon eating contest, the Mt. Nebo Chicken Fry, the Fourth of July's Portia Picnic, Toad Suck Dayz's VIP toad races, Rector's Annual Labor Day picnic, and various gospel, blues, and bluegrass festivals. From mountain tops to river valleys, Arkansas's political events are community gatherings.
If selected by the RBC, our state legislature stands ready to assist the DPA with any changes that would be necessary to reschedule the presidential primary in the pre-window period, including providing adequate funding.
Arkansas' Political Landscape
A major strongpoint that Arkansas has to offer as a pre-window primary
state is our unique political landscape. A strongly Democratic state
amidst a sea of Republican states, Arkansas continues to confound the emerging
notion that the South belongs to the
State Party Chairman Jason Willett was voted into office last January. At 34, Chairman Willet represents the next generation of Democrats and reflects the vitality and diversity of the Party. Through his leadership, Arkansas was able to host for the first time a national meeting of State Party Chairs. The DPA, under Chairman Willett has proven itself an evolving, modem model of a state Democratic party.
Perhaps what distinguishes Arkansas the most from other southern states is that Arkansas boasts a Democratic majority at every level of government. Five of six federal delegates are Democrats including both U.S. Senators. The majority of our Constitutional offices belong to Democrats (5 of 7) and our county level offices are dominated by a Democratic majority in all but two of Arkansas' 75 counties. The state legislature is comprised of 72 Democratic Representatives in the 100 member House and 27 Democratic Senators in the 35 member Senate. This Democratic to Republican ratio is especially impressive in light of our state's mandatory term limit of six years in the House and eight years in the Senate. Both houses have completely turned over and Democrats remain strong. 2006 promises to see this trend continue as this spring's filing period netted 177 Democratic candidates compared to 86 Republican hopefuls for office.
The success of Democrats in Arkansas has not gone unnoticed as the Republican
National Committee has begun to set in motion a plan to claim Arkansas
as its last
southern state. Frequent visits by George Bush, Dick Cheney, Karl Rove, and Ken Mehlman, always with their message: "values matter and be afraid of the terrorists", has spurred movement within the Republican Party of Arkansas. With help of national figures, the GOP has pumped hundreds of thousands of dollars into Arkansas with the goal of sending our state along the same path of other southern states where Republicans dominate.
An early primary where national Democratic Presidential candidates are devoting time and money to define what Democrats stand for, will help us stem this tide and preserve Arkansas as a beacon for Democrats in the south. Not only was the '04 Presidential nominee selected before the Arkansas Democrats could cast their vote, but the nominee wrote off the state, withdrew his operatives and never scheduled a personal appearance. State Democrats raised the funds to conduct our own coordinated campaign on behalf of all Democratic candidates and again, we voted our Federal delegation back into office, maintaining our majority status.
The Arkansas legislature easily voted last year to move our Presidential primary from May to early February. This action arose out of frustration that our state, such a cauldron of political activism, has had declining influence on the Presidential nominating process. When the outgoing and incoming Democratic leaders were approached about the prospect of again rescheduling the Arkansas Presidential primary before the national window, their support was enthusiastic and unequivocal. The legislation to reschedule the Presidential primary was passed in the state with 92 yeas in the House and 23 yeas in the Senate.
The characteristic political makeup of Arkansas legislature elected offices coupled with the willingness of our state to make any future changes that would be needed to accommodate a new primary process provides Arkansas with an advantage that perhaps other Southern and even Midwestern state would lack.
To campaign statewide in Arkansas, a candidate will encounter a microcosm of the diversity that defines our nation. From the booming corporate sector of Northwest Arkansas, to the struggling fanning communities of the storied Delta, to the metropolitan hub of the state's capital, Arkansas has an infinitely deep voting pool representative of the entire national electorate.
Racial and Ethnic Diversity
Racial and ethnic diversity is critical in testing a candidate's ability to appeal to a broad range of voters and issues. Arkansas is blessed with a vibrant African-American community and an emerging Latin community. Senior citizens also are a prevalent voting group in Arkansas, giving the Party a solid block of votes year after year.
With 15.7% (23.5% adjusted) of the population, African Americans are the most reliable Democratic voting block in the state, regularly outpacing the national average. This voting has produced 15 members in the State Legislature and the Legislative Black Caucus is one of the most active auxiliaries in the state.
Since 2000, the Hispanic population has grown 337%, making Arkansas second nationally in Hispanic growth. Representing 3.2% of the state populous, most Latinos are first generation citizens and are only now engaging the political process. This year for the first time, two Hispanics are running for public office in Arkansas. This particular voting block has enormous potential and the resources gained from a pre-window primary will in part go to cultivating a Democratic voting infrastructure within this community.
Seniors comprise 14% of the entire Arkansas population, second only to Florida in per capita population growth. The state's natural beauty combined with the low cost of living has made Arkansas a top destination for the nation's retirees. In fact, all regions of the state have a larger percentage of residents 65 or older than the natural average. What's more is that a benchmark poll taken in Arkansas in 2004 showed that 50% of seniors in our state identify themselves as Democrats.
The racial and ethnic diversity that Arkansas possesses would encourage more debate and attention to a number of different issues, rather than allowing a Presidential candidate to address only the concerns of a singular niche group of voters.
Amidst continued economic growth, Arkansas is still a place where hunger and poverty persist. The state boasts the nation's second largest company in Wal Mart and other corporate giants like Tyson Foods, J .B. Hunt Trucking, and Stephens, Inc. But we are also home to the Delta region which is struggling to emerge from poverty and chronic unemployment.
In 2000, the median household income in Arkansas was $32,182, per capita income was $16,904, and 12% of Arkansas families lived below the poverty line. As of February of this year, Arkansas' unemployment rate stood at 4.7%. The economic disparity between our most prosperous county and our most economically deprived county is vast. Benton County, home to mega-corporation Wal-Mart continues to set the pace of most income earned with a median income of $40, 281. Conversely, poverty ridden Lee County located on the Delta banks of the Mississippi River has a median income of $20, 510.
The 2000 Census reported the top five industries in Arkansas as follows: Educational, Health and Social services (19.6%), Manufacturing (19.4%), Retail trade (13.0%), Construction (7.0%), and Transportation (5.9%). Our state is also #1 in rice production and #2 in poultry production bringing in approximately 3% of our gross state product.
Another example of Arkansas' economic diversity is union density. In spite of decades as a Right to Work state, Arkansas remains home to numerous Labor Unions and organizing activity is alive and well. Organized labor represents 6% of the Arkansas work force with 68,000 workers belonging to various unions and labor groups. Labor Union members have remained an important and contributing partner for state Democrats both with the financial contributions of their national organizations and the grass roots power of their in-state members.
Arkansas' economic sector is varied and wide-reaching. This particular trait unique to our state exemplifies the many different individuals and issues that a presidential candidate would have to address in order to secure the Arkansas' vote, thus producing a more agile and appealing Presidential nominee.
Regional and Geographic Diversity
Located halfway between Canada and Mexico, the Carolinas and California, Arkansas' location makes it only a gas tank away from 1/3 of the national population and in turn allows our state to offer a valuable transportation and distribution advantage. Arkansas' intermodal transportation network of highways, railway, air routes, and waterways is ideally suited to meet the needs of business and often serves as a crossroads for many travelers.
Arkansas geographic diversity ranges from the rice, cotton, and soybean farms of the Delta, to the mountainous terrain of the Ozark and Boston mountains in the North and West, to the timberlands and wildlife refuges of the South. Sixteen of Arkansas' 75 counties are more than 50% urban, with the remaining counties falling under a majority rural status. Each differing landscape offers a different way of life for its residents, in turn making the voting trends of Arkansas that much more diverse. The central locale of Arkansas coupled with its wide-ranging geography and populous marks our state as the nation's true heartland, home to the ideal middle-America voter.
If selected by this distinguished committee to join proven early primary
states of Iowa and New Hampshire in a pre-window primary, Arkansas voters
would fully grasp the responsibility placed upon them and relish the honor
to evaluate our Party's candidates.
Historically, Arkansas has been a Democratic stronghold in the South.
We’ve been fortunate to have been represented on the local, county, state and federal level predominantly by high-profile Democrats – J. William Fulbright, Wilbur Mills, David Pryor, Dale Bumpers and, of course, President Bill Clinton.
Selecting Arkansas to hold a pre-window primary will enable the DPA to build on the strong foundation the Democratic Party has in place and will allow us to continue to produce an effective and consistent voting structure.
The Rules and Bylaws Committee is looking for a pre-window state that is racially and ethnically diverse, regionally and geographically diverse, union dense and economically diverse as well. Arkansas fits these requirements to a tee.
Retail politics is the backbone of our state. According to the DPA’s own figures, more than two-thirds of the visitors to our website say one-on-one contact and local appearances are the best way for candidates to get elected. That hasn’t changed for as long as anyone can remember.
From the Mississippi Delta to the Mountain tops to the river valleys, Arkansas’s political events are community gatherings. Candidates participate in the watermelon eating contest at the Hope Watermelon Festival or the VIP toad Race at Conway’s Toad Suck Dayz. They’re at the Mt. Nebo Chicken Fry, the Portia Picnic on the Fourth of July, the annual Gillett Coon Supper or the Annual Labor Day Picnic in Rector. We’re always on the festival circuit with gospel, blues and bluegrass events happening almost every weekend.
That’s why Arkansas is the most logical choice to be a pre-window primary state.
If selected our state legislature is poised to assist the DPA with any changes necessary for rescheduling, including providing the necessary funding.
ARKANSAS’S POLITICAL LANDSCAPE
One of Arkansas’s major strongpoints is its unique political landscape – it remains a strongly Democratic state among several others that are turning Republican. Arkansas disproves the emerging notion that the South belongs to the Republican Party.
At, 34, DPA Chairman Jason Willett represents the next generation of Democrats and reflects the Party’s vitality and diversity. Arkansas hosted a national meeting of State Party Chairs. And, the DPA is proving itself to be an evolving, modern marvel of a state Democratic party.
One of the things that distinguishes Arkansas from virtually every other Southern state is that it boast an overwhelming Democratic majority at every level of government. Five of our six federal delegates – including both Senators – are Democrats. Five of seven state constitutional officers call themselves Democrats – that is likely to soon change as we have strong candidates poised to become Arkansas’s next Governor and Lieutenant Governor. County level offices are dominated by Democrats in 73 of 75 counties.
On the state level – 72 of 100 state representatives and 27 of 35 senators are Democrats. 2006 promises to be another strong year for our party as the spring filing period netted 177 Democratic hopefuls, more than doubling the 86 Republican candidates who filed to run.
The Republicans are well aware of the success of the Democratic Party in Arkansas. The RNC has begun a plan to claim our state for the GOP. John McCain, Karl Rove, Ken Mehlman and George Bush have been frequent visitors – their constant message “values matter and fear the terrorists.” This message has spurred movement inside the state Republican Party. With national help, the GOP has pumped hundreds of thousands of dollars into Arkansas with the goal of making it another red Southern state.
An early primary where national Democratic Presidential candidates devote time and money to define who Democrats are and what they stand for will reverse this tide and preserve Arkansas as a Democratic beacon in the South. Not only was the ’04 nominee selected before Arkansans could cast their ballots, but the nominee wrote off the state, withdrew his operatives and never scheduled an appearance. Arkansas Democrats still raised the funds necessary for our own co-ordinated campaign, again voted our congressional delegation back into office and maintained our majority status.
In 2005, the Arkansas General Assembly easily voted to reschedule our Presidential primary from May to early February because of frustration that even though our state was a cauldron of political activism had a declining influence on the nomination process. Incoming and outgoing Democratic leaders offered their enthusiastic and unequivocal support when approached about the issue. The legislation passed with 92 yeas in the House, 23 in the Senate.
The characteristic political makeup of Arkansas’s elected lawmakers
and the state’s willingness to make any necessary changes to accommodate
a new primary process provides Arkansas with an advantage other Southern
and Midwestern states lack.
In Arkansas, candidates encounter a microcosm of the diversity that defines our nation. The Northwest corner of our state is booming economically, the farming communities in our Delta region struggle every day to make ends meet and the metropolitan hub of Arkansas’s capitol center is the state’s cultural Mecca. Arkansas has an infinitely deep voter pool that truly represents the nation’s electorate.
RACIAL AND CULTURAL DIVERSITY
Arkansas is blessed with a vibrant African-American community and an emerging Latino population. Seniors are a prevalent voting group that continue to give our party a solid voting bloc year after year.
Nearly one of every four Arkansans is African-American, and this community continues to be the most consistent and reliable voting bloc in Arkansas – regularly outpacing the national average. Fifteen members of our state legislature are African-American, and the Arkansas Democratic Black Caucus is one of the most active auxiliaries in the state. Its annual Kennedy-King Dinner is among the best attended and highest-grossing Democratic events each year.
Since the turn of the new century, the Hispanic population in Arkansas has grown by more than one-third – making Arkansas second in the nation in Latino growth. Hispanics make up more than three percent of our state’s population now. Most of these residents are first or second generation Americans who are just now entering the political process, and this year two Hispanics are running for public office for the first time in Arkansas – both of them under the Democratic banner. This particular population provides enormous potential, and the resources from a pre-window primary can be used to cultivate a Democratic voting infrastructure inside this community that already shares many of our same values and convictions.
Seniors make up 14 percent of Arkansas’s population. Arkansas is second only to Florida in per capita population growth among seniors because of its low cost of living and its natural beauty. In fact, all regions of Arkansas have a higher percentage of residents ages 65 and older than the national average. On top of that, a benchmark study shows half of the seniors in our state identify themselves as Democrats and more than one billion dollars in social security dollars annually come into Arkansas. George Bush’s flawed plans to privatize social security and jeopardize those funds are likely to spike those figures.
Arkansas’ racial and ethnic diversity encourages debate and attention on a wide range of issues, rather than allowing Presidential candidates to focus concerns to a niche group of voters.
Parts or Arkansas are experiencing unprecedented economic growth, but amidst that growth, hunger and poverty still persist in other parts of the state. Arkansas boasts the nation’s second largest company and world’s largest retailer in Wal-Mart and other corporate giants such as Tyson Food, JB Hunt Trucking and Stephens, Inc. But the Delta region of the state is still struggling to emerge from poverty and unemployment.
In 2000, Arkansans’ median household income was just over $30,000, with per capita income at just below $17,000. Twelve percent of our population lived below the poverty line. As of February of this year, our unemployment rate stood at 4.7 percent. The economic disparity between our most prosperous county and our most economically deprived is vast. Benton County, home to Wal-Malt, sets the pace with families there making on average more than $40,000 annually. On the other hand, in poverty-ridden Lee County on the banks of the Mississippi River, the median household income is barely more than $20,000 each year.
The 2000 census ranked Arkansas’s top five industries as educational, health and social services, manufacturing, retail trade, construction and transportation. Agriculture is also a leading industry with our state also ranking number one in rice production and number two in poultry production. Those industries are responsible for roughly three percent of Arkansas’s gross state product.
Another example of Arkansas’s economic diversity is its union density. Despite decades as a right to work state, Arkansas is still home to several labor unions, and organized labor remains alive and well. Organized labor represents about six percent of the state’s workforce with 68,000 workers affiliated with various unions or labor groups. Union members remain an important and contributing partner for state Democrats, offering both financial contributions from their national organizations and grassroots power of their in-state members.
Arkansas’s economic sector is certainly varied and wide-reaching. This trait unique to our state exemplifies the different issues a presidential candidate must address in order to secure Arkansas’s vote, thus producing a more agile and appealing nominee.
REGIONAL AND GEOGRAPHICAL DIVERSITY
Arkansas is located halfway between Mexico and Canada, between the Carolinas and California – making it only a gastank away from 1/3 of the nation’s population an in turn allows our state to offer a valuable transportation and distribution advantage. Our intermodal transportation network of highways, railways, air routes and waterways is suited to meet the needs of business and often serves as a crossroads for many travelers.
Arkansas’s geographic diversity ranges from cotton, soybean and rice
farms in the Delta, to the mountainous terrain of the Ozark and Boston
Mountains of the North to the Timberlands and Wildlife Refuges of the South.
Sixteen of Arkansas’s 75 counties are more than 50% urban, with the remaining
counties falling under a majority rural status. The differing landscapes
offer different ways of life for our residents, in turn making the voting
trends of Arkansas that much more diverse. The state’s central location
coupled with its wide-ranging geography and population makes Arkansas the
nation’s true heartland, home to the ideal middle-American voter.