Ark. Lt. Gov. Halter Deflects Claims He's Too Liberal

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Lt. Gov Bill Halter goes into next month's Democratic Senate primary runoff in Arkansas with the support of major labor unions and liberal organizations. He explains to Lynn Neary why he's not too liberal to win in November against the GOP nominee.


We spoke with both Democratic candidates yesterday. Here's my conversation with Lieutenant Governor Bill Halter.

Well, of course, Arkansas has a long Democratic tradition, but only 39 percent of Arkansans voted for Barack Obama. So what do you say to Democratic voters who are worried that you're just too liberal to win in November with the backing of unions and groups like

Lieutenant Governor BILL HALTER (Democrat, Arkansas): Well, I just have to say that folks don't really understand the race down here. This is not a left-right race. This is a race about who's on the side of middle class Arkansas families versus who is a captive of special interest groups in Washington. And people are standing up and saying you cannot change Washington if you send the same people there over and over again.

NEARY: But latest polls have the Republican, John Boozman, beating both you and Senator Lincoln. Both of you would be beaten by him in November, according to these polls. So do you think inevitably you're going to have to move more to the center to win against Boozman?

Lt. Gov. HALTER: Again, this is - it's not a left-right divide. But, you know, this is one more indication that Washington is 54 square miles surrounded on all four sides by reality. What's happening down here is very straightforward. It is not left-right. It's who is willing to stand up and fight against special interest groups like Wall Street banks, like insurance companies, like big oil. It's who's a fighter for Arkansas families.

NEARY: All right. Let's talk about who's standing up to Wall Street. Senator Lincoln has been proposing tough financial regulatory reforms. Where do your policies differ from hers?

Lt. Gov. HALTER: I called for those policies much earlier. I also would not have voted for the deregulation bill that she voted for, which started these problems. And if I'd been a member of the Agriculture Committee, a committee of oversight of derivatives for l0 years, it wouldn't have taken me 10 years to figure out there was a problem.

This is a very Washington thing to do. You pat yourself on the back for a reform that addresses a problem that you yourself helped create. Senator Lincoln has received over a million dollars in campaign contributions from Wall Street and financial institutions, hundreds of thousands of dollars from big oil and related industries. The fact is, people down here are smart enough to see that this is just part of the D.C. shuffle.

NEARY: Now, President Obama endorsed Senator Lincoln in the primaries. She's now enlisting the help of Bill Clinton. If you win the runoff, will you need and will you seek their backing in November?

Lt. Gov. HALTER: We're going to win the runoff, and then I will fight hard to get votes from every different Arkansan out there, whether they be Democrat, independent or Republican. And I look forward to that race in November, because it will be someone outside of Washington and the Washington ways up against a Republican Congressman who spent the last 10 years in Washington and presided over that very same increase in indebtedness, as well as cast a number of votes that are contrary to the interest of middle class Arkansas families.

NEARY: Lieutenant Governor Bill Halter will challenge incumbent Senator Blanche Lincoln in the runoff Democratic primary on June 8th in Arkansas.

Thanks for being with us.

Lt. Gov. HALTER: Thank you.

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