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OPINION | GREG HARTON: Boozman’s campaign softens up a little after defeating hard-right challengers

by Greg Harton | September 21, 2022 at 4:00 a.m.

John Boozman likely ensured himself another six years in the United States Senate when he avoided a runoff in the GOP primary against far-right challengers Jake Bequette and Jan Morgan, as well as "abortion abolitionist" Pastor Heath Loftis.

He still faces Natalie James, a Democrat, and a couple of others in November.

In the GOP primary, Boozman got 201,677 votes out of 347,556 statewide. Morgan and Bequette got a combined 137,767 votes. Either of them would have given Arkansas its own version of Josh Hawley of Missouri, Lauren Boebert of Colorado, Marjorie Taylor Green of Georgia or Matt Gaetz of Florida. Just to be clear, I do not mean any such comparisons to be complimentary.

Even if Boozman's policies aren't your cup of tea, it would seem having him in the Senate to represent Arkansas would be a far cry better than some of the ignorant (by intelligence or by choice), 100% political, lowest-common-denominator officeholders a few other states have sent to the U.S. Capitol.

Boozman is typically a calm man not bent toward the exaggerated statements and trumped-up drama some of his colleagues specialize in. Bequette and Morgan criticized Boozman as a Republican-in-name-only.

It's a laughable claim, based on his voting record alone. He voted the way Donald Trump wanted about 91 percent of the time and was endorsed by the former president, although it's easy to believe Trump might have endorsed someone like Bequette if GOP gubernatorial nominee, former Trump spokesman and ex-Boozman campaign manager Sarah Huckabee Sanders hadn't had some influence.

In the primary, Boozman's campaign had to figure out a way to make Boozman more Trumpy. It's hard to do when the two are polar opposites in terms of their capacity to respect others, their appreciation for detailed and nuanced governance and their eagerness to grab ... headlines. It's why in a lot of campaign commercials, we heard almost exclusively from others attesting to Boozman's Trumpy credentials: Sanders, Sen. Tom Cotton, Sebastian County Sheriff Hobe Runyon. Most of what we heard from the candidate himself consisted of "I'm John Boozman and I approved this message."

His primary message was about Trump's wall, protecting the Second Amendment from "gun grabbers" and being Arkansas' "conservative fighter."

It seems his fall campaign leading to the Nov. 8 election has softened. His latest commercial I've seen is about veterans' health care, helping farmers and a faceless "Democrat" writing to say she respects his honesty.

But there's still a tip of the hat toward right-wing fear-mongering, with one woman standing by her two children declaring ""I deserve the right to be in control of what schools are teaching my children. You understand that."

Her sentiment is 100 percent true if she wants to teach her kids at home. Otherwise, she deserves a right to speak into her child's education, whether at public or private schools, but not to dictate what all students will learn. Schools are about general education, not individually customized plans in which parents pick what they'll allow and what they won't.

The job is to build students' capacity to think and to fill their heads with knowledge, certainly influenced by their age and community standards. But Boozman's commercial plays into a fear-based trope that teachers are there to "indoctrinate" their students. Boozman, who spent eight years on the Rogers School Board, knows better, but he's got an election to win.

In politics, I suspect you just have to accept there's going to be some nonsense employed to motivate voters.

What we get in 2022 is election-year Boozman. I prefer the one that exists the other five years of the Senate term.

Greg Harton is editorial page editor for the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Contact him by email at [email protected] or on Twitter @NWAGreg.

Print Headline: Boozman ads settle down a bit

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