SPRINGDALE (KFSM) – The Democrat and Republican candidates running for governor went head-to-head in Springdale on Monday (July 22) in a forum that focused mostly on agriculture and rural issues. They also traded barbs on their professional careers outside of politics.
Democrat nominee Mike Ross and Republican nominee Asa Hutchinson were on stage at the Arkansas Farm Bureau Forum in front of about 500 people in attendance. 5NEWS Managing Editor Larry Henry moderated the forum.
“I’m going to make sure that our children are receiving an education that’s second to none, so that we can attract the more and better paying jobs to the state,” Ross said.
“I want to bring a more competitive income tax rate to Arkansas and lower rates, where we are more competitive with our surrounding states,” Hutchinson said.
On stage, and then after the event, Ross questioned why Hutchinson, a Rogers attorney, defended Brandon Barber in court. The former Fayetteville developer was convicted of federal fraud and is awaiting sentencing.
“He ripped off hundreds of people,” Ross said. “He cost people a lot of money, some people their entire life savings. Asa is out there in the courtroom defending him pretending like he’s some small business owner.”
Hutchinson told 5NEWS he would decline to discuss the case pending the sentencing, which is expected next month.
Meanwhile, Hutchinson questioned why Ross would take a lobbyist job after leaving Congress. Ross said he did not register as a lobbyist.
“If you do the work of a lobbyist, then you are a lobbyist whether you register or not,” Hutchinson said. “That was the career that he chose when he left Congress.”
Ross was senior vice president of government affairs for Southwest Power Pool in Little Rock, an energy distribution agency. He said he never lobbied in Arkansas or Washington, D.C.
The statewide general election is scheduled for Nov. 4.
Green Party candidate Joshua Drake and Libertarian Frank Gilbert also are running for the office. Governor Mike Beebe, a Democrat, is prohibited by term limits from seeking re-election.