As the Arkansas Democratic Senate primary begins early voting for the runoff election, a major union backer of Lt. Gov. Bill Halter is distributing pamphlets accusing incumbent Blanche Lincoln of being in the pocket of private insurers, banks and the pharmaceutical industry.
The AFL-CIO released a new mailer on Tuesday designed to compel its 20,000 plus members within the state to head to the polls for the second time in a month. The piece levels the traditional money-in-politics charge, listing the total donations Lincoln has received from JP Morgan Chase, Blue Cross & Blue Shield, Credit Suisse and PhRMA -- reviled names among the activist base and labor community. More broadly, the idea is to depict Lincoln once again as a creature of D.C. and special interest politics.
"She's gone native," AFL-CIO spokesman Eddie Vale said of Lincoln. "She's cruising around D.C. and living in a two-million-dollar Virginia mansion and has left Arkansas working families behind."
With the June 8 runoff election looming, Arkansas has become something of a case study in current Democratic politics. While Halter is getting aid from labor backers and the progressive grassroots -- over Memorial Day weekend, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee passed the goal of raising $200,000 for the lieutenant governor -- Lincoln has relied on high-profile figures like former President Bill Clinton. Incumbency and experience normally are big advantages for a congressional candidate. But in a year in which no one seems content with Congress and in an election in which on-the-ground turnout seems likely to make the difference, it seems that Lincoln's position as the establishment candidate has become a disadvantage.
UPDATE: The Service Employees International Union -- another group backing Halter -- released a new television advertisement on Friday that makes much the same case as the AFL-CIO mailer. The spot is not the union's "closing argument" an official said, meaning the organization has more to spend in the election's closing days.