LITTLE ROCK — The new head of the Democratic Party of Arkansas has issued a call to arms to party loyalists to make next year’s elections about their hometowns, not Washington.
Vincent Insalaco, elected state Democratic Party chairman at the party’s state committee meeting last weekend in Springdale, told Democrats last week that the once-dominant state party has much work to do to reverse Republican gains in recent years, which he attributed in large part to GOP success in making state elections about Washington.
"They nationalized a local election, and we cannot allow them to do that again in this cycle. This election is not about people in Washington, it’s about people in Arkansas," Insalaco said in an email to party supporters.
He urged Democrats to take a page from Bill Clinton’s successful presidential campaigns of the 1990s, in which legions of the Arkansas Democratic faithful known as Friends of Bill fanned across the nation extolling Clinton and his positions on the issues.
"We have to come together and recognize that our future and the future of our children and grandchildren is on the line in 2014," Insalaco said. "If we can send 1,000 Arkansans around the country … to help elect President Clinton, surely we can organize local districts and send Arkansans to talk to other Arkansans."
He also cautioned Democrats that the party likely would be out-spent in next year’s election, noting that Republicans benefited from millions of dollars from out-of-state interest groups in the last two election cycles.
Americans For Prosperity, a conservative group backed by billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, spent more than $500,000 on state Senate and House races last year, and the contributions of the Georgia-based National Faith and Freedom Coalition, led by Christian conservative Ralph Reed, totaled at least $100,000.
Republicans won majorities in the House and Senate last year for the first time since the end of the Civil War.
"We will have to rely on organizing, hard work and a strong ground game. I’ve pledged to do that. You must make the same pledge," Insalaco said in his message to Democrats.
"The Republicans have voted against Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid for our children and seniors, equal pay for equal work, and the Violence Against Women Act. They claim to represent the people, but which people exactly are they referring to? It certainly isn’t the people of Arkansas," he said.
State Republican Party Chairman Doyle Webb said Friday that what happens in Washington matters in Arkansas.
"When you have an overly intrusive federal government that passes a health care reform law known as Obamacare, one that puts bureaucrats between the sacred relationship of a patient and a doctor, that is a matter that concerns everyday Arkansans," he said.
"When you have a runaway deficit and a lackluster economic recovery brought on by the liberal policies of Barack Obama, it affects job creation and unemployment of everyday hardworking, taxpaying Arkansans. Those are Arkansas issues."
Webb also accused Democrats of trying to nationalize state elections when it suits their purposes.
"It sounds to me like the Democratic Party is trying to nationalize elections by using the old trick of smoke and mirrors to scare the senior citizens regarding Social Security," he said. "That dog just won’t hunt anymore here in Arkansas. Republicans have proven they can efficiently and effectively govern and can focus on fiscal reform while moving Arkansas forward. And that is what we will continue to do here in the Republican Party of Arkansas."
Republicans currently hold three of the state’s seven constitutional offices — lieutenant governor, secretary of state and land commissioner — as well as 21 seats in the 35-member Senate and 51 seats in the 100-member House.