Arkansas GOP Grapples with Health Law Fight (AP Analysis)

by Andrew DeMillo, The Associated Press  on Sunday, Aug. 18, 2013 3:04 pm  

The Darr-Westerman matchup shows the types of fights that await Republicans in dozens of primaries across the ballot next year. Darr opened his campaign with a criticism of Westerman for initially sponsoring the private option legislation, saying the expansion never would have become law without his work.

"I just think that one he did the research for it, he helped write the bill and at the last hour he pulled out and said 'I've got something else,'" Darr said. "To me, that's a CYA bill. It just covers your own rear and says this is my own."

Darr said he opposed private option but would have signed it into law if he were governor given the supermajority support it received.

Westerman used his announcement speech to defend himself, acknowledging he wrote part of the plan and indirectly criticizing Darr for not speaking out against it earlier.

"I needed to be the voice of my constituents that day -- without the luxury of 20/20 vision that comes with hindsight and with the courage to do the right thing when the pressure is high," Westerman said.

The dispute may be tame compared to the ones Republicans will face in other races between supporters and opponents of the private option. The campaign rhetoric in those races will heat up as lawmakers return to the Capitol in February for next year's session, where opponents of the insurance expansion law say they'll mount an effort to block its funding.

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