Mon April 04, 2022

By Jeff Smithpeters

GOP candidates Doc Washburn and State Senator Charles Beckham distance themselves from establishment at Hope Town Hall

Doc Washburn, left, stands with state Sen. Charles Beckham, middle, at Medical Freedom Town Hall as pastor and business owner Mark Silvey looks on at right.

At what was billed as a Medical Freedom Town Hall on Friday night April 1, Doc Washburn, GOP candidate for governor and Charles Beckham, GOP candidate for state Senate District 3, strove to distinguish themselves from their opponents, who they both characterized as serving corporations rather than the state. About 30 people came out to see the event.

At the Hope Fair Parks Community center, Charles Beckham of McNeil was the first candidate to speak.  Doc Washburn, 66, of Little Rock spoke next.

Washburn began by retelling in a more expansive form the story of the origins of his candidacy he told Roby Brock on Talk Business and Politics Mar 27. He said he had been told by his employer, Cumulus Media, for whom he had hosted a radio talk show on 102.9 KARN for “seven years and three months,” that employees needed to be vaccinated or face firing. After he was fired, Washburn gathered investors and advertisers and began a podcast.

Washburn said that after his fellow GOP candidate for governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders announced her endorsements of Arkansas Congressman French Hill and Senator John Boozman, he saw the “hundreds of negative responses” to Sanders’ decision on social media. At the same time, he said, his “phone started ringing.” Washburn said he kept telling the callers who asked him to run against Sanders, “you’ve got the wrong guy.”

But when Jan Morgan, a pastor and gun range owner who had unsuccessfully challenged Hutchinson in 2018 and is now in the primary against Boozman, called and asked Washburn if he would discuss the idea of a run for governor with his wife and pray about it with her, he took the idea more seriously.

A succession of meetings with local Republican committees followed, which were encouraging, showing that he could raise the $15,000 filing fee.

Washburn then spoke on Sanders’ endorsements. Senator Boozman, Washburn explained, said Trump could be prosecuted for the events of January 6.  Next, Washburn said, Congressman Hill publicly admitted Biden won the presidential election of 2020, voted to keep Wyoming Congressman Liz Cheney (an outspoken member of  the House January 6 Investigation Committee) in the Republican party and voted to allocate funds to the CDC “to keep track of vaccinations.”

Washburn also singled out an early endorser of Sanders’ candidacy, citing Governor Hutchinson’s veto of the Save Adolescents From Experimentation Act which was overridden by the legislature.  When the bill was being discussed, Washburn said, a medical professional asked whether an Arkansan at the age of four was too young to decide on gender reassignment, said the age was appropriate “to start the counselling process.”

About Sanders chances of winning, Washburn said, “I don’t think people in the state want a third term of Asa Hutchinson or Mike Huckabee.”

Should he be elected, Washburn pledged to rein in the “two different divisions that can take kids from parents,” referring to the state Department of Children and Family Services and the Crimes Against Children Division of the Arkansas Department of Public Safety. He cited the Hal and Michelle Stanley case as an instance of overzealous enforcement. “They [DCFS and CAC] thought they were going to some kind of Waco situation,” Washburn said.

Members of these two organizations would be required to wear body cams in the field.  “No more bulldozing," Washburn said. “No more entering without a warrant.”

The Stanleys temporarily lost custody of seven children in 2015 because an allegation they were forcing the children to take a mineral supplement the FDA deemed dangerous. The children were restored to the couple’s Garland County home six months later.

Washburn said that on his first day in office he would accept the resignations, traditionally offered on the day of a new governor’s inauguration, of all the governor’s administrative staff. “I can’t think of any that I’ll turn down,” he said.

Washburn’s priorities, he said, would also include greater support for nursing home inspections and background checks of elder care workers.

“People are suffering in this state,” he said. “And Biden’s inflation? They’re doing this on purpose.” Washburn then described what he said is the plan of Klaus Schwab, executive director of the World Economic Forum, to end property ownership, privacy rights and meat-consumption.

Mentioning the money advantage held by the Sanders campaign, which has built a $13 million war chest, Washburn pointed to the election of 2016, in which he said the winner, Donald J. Trump, spent half of what the Hillary Clinton campaign spent. In another instance, Washburn said, a trucker in Nevada beat the president of that state’s senate by spending less than $200.

He closed by saying, “If my message gets to enough people, I will be the nominee.”

Beckham, 38, began his turn at the lectern by saying the reason he ran for office was that he had young children and was concerned about the world they would be inheriting. In reporting on what he had seen in his first term as senator, he said that while the Republicans did have a super majority, he was not satisfied with what had been accomplished. He said the appointments by Governor Hutchinson “are what kills us,” and that the appointments are driven by money from outside the state.

Beckham acknowledged that he is not supported by the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce, while his opponent, Steve Crowell, 49, of Magnolia, is. Beckham ascribed this to a vote he made in August of last year’s regular session to adjourn rather than vote on a bill to allow employers to require vaccinations.

Citing his own experience preparing workers to do in relation to fuel container ships, Beckham said that worker safety could be entrusted to employers. He also cited the Federalist Papers, in which he said the founding fathers had a particular focus, as they attempted to sell the US Constitution, on rights accorded to citizens. “All those rights pointed toward individuals,” he said. He added that the fact that the founders “got it 100 percent right” argued for the role of Divine Intervention in the Constitution’s drafting.

But more recently, Beckham said, “we have given corporations individual rights.”

When he spoke to Steven Crowell, Beckham said, he found Crowell “can’t give me a straight answer on why he’s running.” Beckham asked the audience to look at who was supporting Crowell.  (A March 27 Arkansas Democrat-Gazette preview of the District 3 race listed the Crowell campaign receiving a $2,900 contribution from the state Chamber of Commerce.)

Beckham added that his experience of nearly being disadvantaged by the Republican majority’s reapportionment mapping and seeing Crowell being supported by the state Chamber of Commerce made it obvious Beckham is being targeted.

He closed by reminding the audience that early voting in the May 24 primary starts May 9.

The town hall began with a speech by Mark Silvey, a business-owner and bivocational pastor from Rosston, explaining that while many COVID precautions had been ended the state’s businesses could currently still require vaccinations. He said this was still allowed because of the political power of corporations like Walmart and Tyson to determine legislation.