Democrat Rep. Marion Berry has represented this district since 1997, and it’s been in Democratic hands for more than 100 years. All of that could change, as voting trends here have changed and Berry is stepping away. That leaves former Berry staff member Chad Causey to try to hold this district for the Democrats. He faces a strong challenge from Republican Rick Crawford.
Candidates for Arkansas’s 1st Congressional District (two-year term)
(This district includes numerous counties, namely Arkansas, Baxter, Clay, Cleburne, Craighead, Crittenden, Cross, Fulton, Greene, Independence, Izard, Jackson, Lawrence, Lee, Lonoke, Mississippi, Monroe, Phillips, Poinsett, Prairie, Randolph, Saint Francis, Searcy, Sharp, Stone, and Woodruff. The cities of Jonesboro, Pocahontas, Mountain Home and West Memphis are in this district. See a boundary map here.)
Candidate: Chad Causey
Political experience: According to his website, Causey was Rep. Berry’s chief-of-staff and has served in that capacity for the past decade.
Professional experience: Causey has worked his way up from being Berry’s driver to his chief-of-staff.
Key issues: As an experienced hand in the region, Causey understands his potential district is conservative on social and hot-button issues, so he makes no bones about being pro-gun by stating he’s a hunter and gun-owner who supports the Second Amendment. The Delta is a rural, poor region, and he makes agricultural, employment and debt issues a high priority. He’s definite about balancing the budget, a stance Republicans usually pride themselves on. But it’s also a popular idea with Blue Dog Democrats in conservative districts.
Endorsements: Rep. Berry, state representative David Cook, state senator Steve Bryles (both former primary opponents) and President Clinton have endorsed Causey.
Chances of gaining this seat: Though demographics would seem to favor the Republican, the long tradition of voting Democrat in this district may not run off simply due to an bad mid-term election for Democrats and the retirement of the popular former representative. Causey is used to canvassing this country and has been doing so for a long time. As a known quantity in an area that favors Democrats locally, he’s got a strong chance of holding down the fort.
It also helps that, according to OpenSecrets.org, Causey has nearly double the money raised to Crawford, though he has spent almost all of it as of early September. Consequently, Crawford has around $213,000 to Causey’s $90,000 on hand.
Candidate: Rick Crawford
Political experience: Crawford’s website mentions that he helped former Rep. Asa Hutchinson by leading his efforts to develop agriculture policy during his run for governor.
Professional experience: A former Army bomb-disposal technician, Crawford has served on Secret Service details. Much of his professional experience has been in agriculture-related news services, acting as a news anchor, a reporter and as a producer; he currently owns AgWatch Network, a farm-news network. He has also been a professional rodeo announcer and marketing manager for a John Deere dealer group.
Key issues: Crawford makes it clear he wants to repeal and replace the current health care reform policy with an interest in putting cost controls, better access and improved care as the goals for any further legislative reform.
Getting the budget under control is another central plank. Namely, Crawford wants the country out of the $56.5 trillion debt created by congressional spending.
Endorsements: Crawford’s backing includes former Gov. Mike Huckabee, Gov. Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota, Rep. Asa Hutchinson and former Rep. Ed Bethune. He is also endorsed by the Iraq Veterans for Congress and National Organization of Conservative Women.
Chances of defeating Chad Causey: He’s got a better chance than a Republican has had in years. As someone whose voice is heard by a lot of rural voters and who’s fairly in touch with the conservative, traditional values of the region, he’s got the wind at his back. The trouble is, a conservative Democrat has just as loud of a voice in this region as any Republican, and Causey has done a lot of legwork. Conventional wisdom is that this race is still a toss-up, despite Rep. Berry’s retirement.
Key Differences between Rick Crawford and Chad Causey
Jobs and debt: Both men are strongly in favor of paying down the national debt. Causey would like to manage that by balancing the budget. Crawford believes that a Constitutional amendment may be needed to more permanently establish a disciplined approach to budgetary spending.
Energy: Crawford would like to see the Outer Continental Shelf restrictions on oil-and-gas exploration lifted with environmental protections limited solely to areas where they are needed, and the leasing sales and production would be used to pay down debt. He’s also in favor of speeding up nuclear-plant approvals without risking safety. Causey is also in support of energy independence, favoring a mix of clean and traditional energy approaches and noting that small windmills in the district are already cropping up. He doesn’t seem to support so-called “cap-and-tax” plans, which would put him at odds with more liberal Democrats in Congress.
Agriculture: Causey wants to see agricultural disaster program reform and the elimination of tariffs and duties on imported fertilizer ingredients. Thinking globally, he wants to see a trade deal with Panama and the re-opening of trade with Cuba. Crawford supports increased research and development tax credits for ethanol, biodiesel, and bio-based fuels.
Arkansas‘s 1st U.S. Congressional District
Location: The Arkansas 1st District makes up the entire northeast quarter of the state, excepting a cross-shaped section in the center where Little Rock is located. The district is south of Missouri and west of Tennessee and Mississippi, with a large portion near the river considered part of the Mississippi Delta and stretching roughly to the Ozarks in the west.
2008 results: Rep. Marion Berry ran unopposed.
Demographics: According to the U.S. Census, 79.3 percent of the district is white, 16.6 percent black, 2 percent Hispanic, and 0.5 percent Asian.
The Cook Partisan Index gives the Arkansas 1st District a rating of R+8, providing an advantage to Republican candidates in this district.