Making a swing through southwest Arkansas on Tuesday evening, new Arkansas State Democratic Chairman Michael John Gray said the key was “reconnection not retreat” as he visited Hempstead and Miller counties.

Making a swing through southwest Arkansas on Tuesday evening, new Arkansas State Democratic Chairman Michael John Gray said the key was “reconnection not retreat” as he visited Hempstead and Miller counties.
“We need to talk with our neighbors again; we need to talk about the pocket issues that the people are talking about around the kitchen table. We need to engage our neighbors in the churches, the grocery stores, and restaurants during lunch. We need to have the conversations again,” Gray said Tuesday at the Hope Star office.
Gray conceded that these are challenging times for the Democrats in Arkansas, but he quickly says that over 60-percent of locally elected officials in the state are still Democrats and many of the state’s population are still registered as Democrats.
“It is not time to panic; it is not time to retreat, it is time for us to reconnect. If we can do that, then we have a solid message of economic opportunity, healthcare access, and standing up for working class citizens,” he said.
Unfortunately, Gray conceded that much of the national political narrative on both GOP and Democratic sides have come to define the state parties, including in Arkansas.
“We’ve got to get past that, but we’ve let them define us too long.  We’ve let the Republican narrative overtake us and our message; we’ve got to start telling our story, our vision, and our message again,” he said.
Gray has visited 30 Arkansas counties since being elected as the new state chairman for 2017, and he looks forward to visiting all 75 and reclaiming lost ground.
“We, as a state party, got lazy. We’ve got to get back to work, and we’ve got to work as hard as the Republicans do.  Give them credit, they have worked hard to achieve the successes they have. We’ve got to get energized and get back in the game in all 75 counties,” he said.
Gray said that several pockets of the state have what he described as “new energy and new motivation to move forward.”
Gray said that while the Republicans are concerned with winning elections, “Democrats are concerned about people, solving their problems, and people having better lives. Everyone should have a fair shot, and we can’t abandon that core message. That’s a good message for us, and that’s what will prevail in the long run.”
Gray also remembers that a recent popular Democratic governor, Mike Beebe, had won two terms and won 70-percent of the vote.
“I think that proves that Arkansans will vote for a good candidate and can cut through all the GOP rhetoric,” he said.