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Unique ideas in the land commissioner’s race

By: 15 May 2010 One Comment

L.J. Bryant

It’s worth mentioning that we don’t endorse candidates here at First Arkansas News.

Not yet, anyway.

Truth be told, it would be more like most of the people who write for this fine site to pick out candidates we don’t like and make fun of them.

So, why is there a picture of L.J. Bryant — a Democrat running for the Commissioner of State Lands office — here?

That’s actually pretty simple. For one thing, he got in touch with First Arkansas News and wanted to schedule an interview. We’ve only been around about a month, yet Bryant takes this site seriously enough to divert some time from his busy campaign schedule in hopes of reaching our readers.

That’s what we call an attention-getting move. It seems to have worked.

Also, that Bryant fellow has some plans for the Land Commissioner’s office that are more than a bit unique. Frankly, that’s not the most exciting office in the state — the main purpose of the land commissioner is to collect delinquent taxes for counties. If those taxes can’t be collected, then the land commissioner’s job is to collect the property belonging to (non)taxpayers.

That may not be the most exciting job in the state, but Bryant treats is as a very important one. Truth be told, it is an important one — when you’re talking about taking people’s land from them, you’d like to think there’s someone in the Land Commissioner’s office who thinks taking advantage of every way possible to get in touch with them is essential.

“I think — so often — folks visualize constitutional offices as places where people get their name on the door, kick their feet up and don’t do much,” he said. “If my name’s going to be on the door, I want to do something.”

That “something,” Bryant said, involves utilizing technology so that people who are delinquent on taxes can be found and notified. Also, he said there’s no reason why people who do owe back taxes shouldn’t be able to pay them online with credit cards — something that can’t be done now.

Furthermore, Bryant said catalogs of land the state has for sale can be distributed through the Internet effectively and efficiently — a system he says will help generate more revenue for Arkansas and won’t require raising taxes. Getting that catalog to the public can be as simple as updating the Arkansas Commissioner of State Lands Internet site, utilizing email lists and taking advantage of free social media tools.

“We’re not talking about … something super scary and big,”  Bryant said. “We’re talking about updating the Website and using Twitter and Facebook.”

Again, First Arkansas News doesn’t endorse Bryant or anyone else in this race. Still, his plans for an office that’s not the most visible and exciting one in Little Rock are well worth repeating.

Bryant is facing two other Democrats — Mike Berg and Monty Davenport — in the May 18 primary. The winner of that race will face Republican John M. Thurston in the November election.

Here are the links to follow to learn more about the individual candidates:

Mike Berg campaign site
L.J. Bryant campaign site
Monty Davenport campaign site
John Thurston campaign site

Anyone but Halter

In the upcoming U.S. Senate race, we at First Arkansas News have boldly refused to endorse anyone. Regardless, I have personally adopted the “anyone but Halter” campaign stance.

He’s managed to behave like a smug, arrogant troll throughout his race for lieutenant governor and during his brief time as lieutenant governor. He extended his jerky behavior to a member of the press just yesterday. Don’t believe me? Check out this interview with Halter on Jason Tolbert’s blog (the famed Tolbert Report).

Tolbert, after the final debate among the Democrats gearing up for the May 18 primaries, hung around long enough to ask Halter about the Employee Free Choice Act/Card Check issue. Halter promptly shut him down, indicating he didn’t want to answer a question from a Republican journalist who isn’t voting in the Democratic primary (Tolbert said he did plan to vote in the Democratic primary, thus prompting Halter to ask for the vote of a man he just insulted).

There are at least two very annoying things about that exchange. First of all, it’s downright offensive for candidates to refuse to answer questions from journalists who might disagree with them on an ideological basis. That sets a terrible precedent — how useful would, say, press conferences be if elected officials chose to exclude reporters who didn’t agree with them?

Second, Halter has branded himself as an outsider who wants to head to Washington to help fix what’s broken in that city. Some have made the very valid point that partisan bickering and a refusal to consider opposing viewpoints have contributed mightily to a government filled with hacks who play party politics rather instead of solving problems.

Halter has always come across as one of those “us vs. them” politicians, and he reinforced that image by shutting down Tolbert. Hey, if you want more partisan squabbling and party-line politicians in Washington, Halter is your man.

Fortunately, people voting in the Democratic primary on Tuesday have alternatives to that dreadful Halter. You’ve got incumbent Blanche Lincoln (who actually had a civil discussion with mean ole Republican Tolbert in the aforementioned video) or scrappy challenger D.C. Morrison.

Update — Halter is both rude and a big, fat liar!

Apparently, Halter’s dismissive behavior inspired Tolbert to do a little fact checking. Yes, he’s been caught lying through his teeth about the concern of Arkansans over the aforementioned Card Check issue. Make sure to watch the latest video on Tolbert’s site.

Meanwhile, Blanche Lincoln has used the “Tolbert incident” as an excuse to bash on Halter. Good for her. He deserves a good bashing.

Ah, that wacky, wacky Halter. Here’s hoping he does something else stupid before the primary.

About: Ethan C. Nobles:
Benton resident. Rogue journalist. Recovering attorney. Email =

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