Mike Beebe: Outside Groups Have Misled Voters About Arkansas

by Andrew DeMillo, The Associated Press  on Saturday, Nov. 3, 2012 4:23 pm  

JONESBORO — Gov. Mike Beebe on Saturday accused outside conservative groups of misleading voters on Arkansas' record on education, jobs and taxes, as he and fellow Democrats made a final push to prevent a Republican takeover of the state Legislature.

Kicking off a series of rallies in the northeast part of the state, the Democratic governor continued his criticism of conservative advocacy groups such as Americans for Prosperity and touted his successes under a majority-Democrat state Legislature. Confidence is building among Republicans that they will win control of both the state House and Senate for the first time since Reconstruction, and Americans for Prosperity has spent more than $900,000 over the past two years in Arkansas and sent out 1.1 million mailers in dozens of state House and Senate districts.

"They're backing candidates that would go backwards and they're backing candidates against these folks who are here," Beebe said at a rally in front of a Jonesboro bed and breakfast. "And I'm going to tell you something: I'm sick and tired of them trashing Arkansas. ... If they don't like us, then they need to keep their mouths shut and get out of here. They dang sure don't need to lie about us."

Beebe singled out an Americans for Prosperity ad that claims Arkansas residents are fleeing the state because of high taxes. He said the ad by the group formed by conservative billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch is both false and anti-Arkansas.

He said $730 million in net tax cuts have been enacted since he took office in 2007.

Beebe also defended the state's record on education, claiming groups were trying to downplay the state's gains and national rankings in the classroom.

"Why would they run our education system down when we've made so much progress just for a vote, just to try and influence somebody and tear what we've done down?" Beebe said. "Why would you want to do that unless you didn't love Arkansas and weren't from Arkansas, didn't care about Arkansas but cared more about electing somebody with some letter by your name than whether or not they cared about the future of our state?"

Republicans dismissed Beebe's remarks and said Democrats' last-minute rallying wouldn't be enough to stop a GOP surge.

"This is too little, too late," said Katherine Vasilos, a spokeswoman for the state Republican Party. "Unlike Gov. Beebe, Arkansas Republicans are not in the business of winning elections by making personal partisan attacks. This election is about who has a better plan to help hard-working taxpayers and create a better future for Arkansas."

Teresa Oelke, state director for Americans for Prosperity, accused Beebe of "Washington-style rhetoric" for criticizing her group and others for being involved in the legislative races.

"We have continually pushed for a conversation about policy and where Arkansas stands as a state so we can compete for jobs in the future," Oelke said.

The focus on northeast Arkansas in the final weekend before Tuesday's election shows how tough of a fight Democrats face for the Legislature even in a region that has traditionally been the party's stronghold. Republicans have made gains in the state by tying Democratic candidates to President Barack Obama, who remains unpopular in the state and is widely expected to lose the state's six electoral votes to Republican challenger Mitt Romney.



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