VILONIA — Some candidates promised Vilonia residents Monday night during a public forum, if elected, they will work hard, clean up political corruption and work with residents not against them.
Those who spoke vying for political office were Democrat Joyce Elliot and Republican Tim Griffin running for U.S. Congress District 2; Watson Bell on behalf of Gov. Mike Beebe, a Democrat, running for governor.; Sen. Shane Broadway, a Democrat, and Republican Mark Darr running for Lieutenant Governor; Republican Mark Martin running for Secretary of State; Democrat Sandra Prater running for State Senate 29; Democrat Eddie Hawkins and Republican Stephen Meeks running for State Representative for District 47; Prosecuting Attorney Marcus Vaden, a Democrat, and Republican Cody Hiland running for Prosecuting Attorney Dist. 20; Republican Steve Goode running unopposed for Quorum Court; Major Andy Shock represented Sheriff Karl Byrd, a Democrat, against Independent Jerry Roberts in the race for Faulkner County Sheriff; and Richard Goff for Vilonia City Council.
Sponsored by the Vilonia Area Chamber of Commerce and held at the Senior Citizens Center, tables were covered with political literature and punch and cookies were served during the forum. Lasting nearly two hours, each speaker was limited to seven minutes.
The first at the microphone, Elliot reminded the audience of her public record as a senator and enlightened some as to her 30-year career as an educator. If elected to Congress, she said she will end automatic pay raises, ban special interests gifts and trips. She also said she will work to “clean up Congress and put Arkansas first.”
Her opponent, Griffin touched on “sharp disagreements” between he and Elliott. He plans to focus on private sector job creation and “getting our fiscal house in order by reducing spending, deficits and debts.” “Our country is going too far, too fast in the wrong direction,” he said.
Bell touting the praises of incumbent Beebe in his bid for re-election as governor, said he respects Beebe and his management skills. He also mentioned Beebe’s integrity and his “genuine love” for the state. The two practiced law together for 24 years in Searcy, Bell said. He referred to Beebe as a “fiscal conservative” who has used good management skills during his term in office to reduce sales tax, improve education and raise per capita income.
In a bid for Lt. Governor, Darr said he is not a true politician but instead a business owner with a desire to try to help others. He talked about a need for disclosure concerning “where state officials stand” and how they vote on issues including health measures. He encouraged voters to research candidates before going to the polls. He plans to push, he said, for an online checkbook system tracing “every single dollar and where it is being spent. We have major issues here in Arkansas. It’s on y’all to educate yourself.”
As a candidate for secretary of state, Martin said he has made a career of serving others referring to his service as a state representative. If elected as secretary of state, he said he plans to be an advocate for businesses rather than an adversary. He focused on the importance of the office being non partisan. His vision for the office, he said, concerns one “we all hold dear,” free and fair elections no matter what the party.
Prater touched on her service in the House of Representatives as well as her nursing background. She also touched on her commitment, she said, to health care issues regarding senior care and care for children as well as drug and alcohol testing for truckers.
“My goal is to work with you and not against you,” she said, concerning her bid for state senate.
Meeks said he is running for state representative because there are “things in the state and country that have me concerned.” In his bid for the office, he said he will fight for upholding the 10th amendment as well as fight against proposed highway and gas taxes. He plans to work to make government more transparent.
“I believe it will be my duty to find out the will of the people and to funnel that through my seat to the legislature,” he said.
Incumbent Eddie Hawkins told the audience he has the experience and is ready to serve two more years and will stand on his “proven record” of leadership in his run for state representative.
“That’s what I’m about,” he said. “I’ve worked hard taking care of our district.”
He cited a couple of examples of public service and referred to a couple of audience members to substantiate his claims.
“Go ask people if they have ever called on me and I have failed to do my best to serve them,” he said. “I have a proven record.”
Prosecuting attorney Marcus Vaden asked for four more years in office.
“This job is about public safety,” he said. “This job is about experience.”
His duties, he said, involve dealing with murder cases and sexual predator cases, as well as drug related cases and violent offenders.
“You have got to have someone who knows how to do it,” he said. “For the past 19 years, I have dedicated my life to this job.”
He said he spent the first 15 years as a deputy prosecutor learning the job and the last four doing it.
Asking to be elected as prosecuting attorney, Cody Hiland agreed with Vaden that “safety is the issue,” However, he said, “law enforcement has to have a partner. Ask members of law enforcement if they are happy with the current administration. Law enforcement is the key to this issue. Look them up and talk to them.”
Running unopposed for justice of the peace, Goode told the audience he is at the “greatest place for a politician.”
He spent a couple of minutes complimenting some Vilonia students in attendance who, he said, are “trying to learn about their government.”
In the sheriff’s race, Shock asked the audience to support incumbent Byrd — a man with 34 years of law enforcement experience. Byrd, Shock said, is active in the community starting many public outreach programs. He also said he is conservative in his management style and aggressive concerning law enforcement.
“He’s been very conservative in the past three years where money is concerned,” Shock said. “Over the past three years, we have turned back money every year. We have turned back $1.7 million to the county. He is slow and methodical when dealing with criminals. He goes strictly by the book. He’s an honest man and I’m putting my name behind him.”
Roberts, running against Byrd, said he has 26 years of education and has been in law enforcement working “24 years on the street.”
A retired state police officer, Roberts said, his bid for sheriff “could be an experiment. I want to see if you can tell the truth and get elected.”
On that note, he talked about “organized corruption” and said he plans to put an end to it if he is elected.
Broadway took a turn at the podium. He cited his childhood teachings from his father regarding family, faith, country, hard work and the value of a good education.
His bid for election, he said, is about economic development “saving jobs” and improving lives of Arkansans.
Rounding out the event, Goff asked to be elected to the Vilonia City Council. He said he was born and raised in Vilonia and is running because “Vilonia is important to me.” There needs to be people on the council, he said, with his same attitude — one that believes in upholding the U.S. Constitution and one that believes people working for the city should be upstanding.
It was announced that incumbent Sherry Clements, Goff’s opposition, is ill and could not be at the event.