With less than a month before election day, the state legislative races are heating up, even as the top of the ticket dominates the airwaves and media attention. Control of the House is very much in play, but potentially the most consequential race is the battle for the District 19 Senate seat made vacant by Democratic Sen. David Wyatt. Democrat Rep. James McLean of Batesville is facing off against Tea Partier Linda Collins-Smith.
The Republicans are in no danger of losing control of the Senate any time soon, but the race could have major implications for the future of the private option. Remember, the private option — the state’s policy using Medicaid funds to purchase private health insurance for low-income Arkansans — has to be renewed by a 75-percent supermajority every year. Regardless of what happens this November, private option advocates have a decent shot at getting over the hump again in the House, with so many representatives, so many votes flipping, and so many places to hide. The Senate is more complicated. It only takes nine senators to block the whole thing, as long as they’re willing to shut down the entire Department of Human Services budget to do so. The aginners already have a solid number in the Hell No caucus willing to do just that. As it stands, there are 10 NO votes based on the senators who voted against funding in 2014 plus two pickups of newcomers who campaigned against the private option in the private option. If the aginners pick up another NO in the Senate? Yikes.
Luckily, McLean has a plan to ward off all comers: a radio jingle that you CANNOT get out of your head. This bit of treacle is a bit much for my taste, but I’m probably not the target audience. I can’t find the longer version, which is playing constantly in his district, and includes someone asking McLean if he will bring jobs. “GOBS AND GOBS AND GOBS!” he responds. I’m trying to hunt down a copy — if any of our commenters know where to look, let me know.