Here’s a bit of minor league funny business in a race for Arkansas legislature — small potatoes, but illustrative of politics in blood-red Arkansas, where faith and branding “trump” facts just about every time.
The photo above was used by the campaign of Grimsley Graham on his Facebook page for his race for state House against incumbent Republican Rep. Rebecca Petty in Rogers. Graham is a splendid candidate — military veteran, now retired as a long-time and popular high school teacher in Rogers and a smart guy with, it must be said, a solid progressive outlook. (This is Northwest Arkansas.)
Graham went to the bike race depicted above Aug. 4 and campaigned. He said Petty was nowhere to be found. But what should pop up on Petty’s Facebook page but the Graham campaign photograph? Many objected on Twitter and elsewhere to her use of the photo. Petty’s immediate response was to block access of complainers to her social media pages. She did not respond to my question about use of the photo. She finally removed the photo this week, apparently.
The comment on Graham’s blog is the story:
Rebecca Petty was not at the race on Saturday. This blatant plagiarism is shocking, but Petty’s absence wasn’t. In 2014, Rep. Petty was hard to find – she was a no show for debates, forums, Frisco Fest, and everywhere else the campaign took Mr. Graham. She didn’t even come to her own editorial board interview with the newspaper. This was just another chapter in Petty’s long history of failing to show up.
Look, we aren’t making hay out of this for nothing. Rep. Petty using our campaign photos to pretend she was out in her district last Saturday is a clear illustration of what’s wrong with our state government today. She doesn’t show up to events because she knows she just needs to put on a show to win. Wait it out, and the Koch Brothers will spend tens of thousands of dollars in the district to get her elected, just like they did last time.
Petty has an undistinguished record as a legislator. She avoids joint appearances with Graham for good reason. The comparison would not be flattering to her.
All of this probably doesn’t matter in yellow dog Republican Northwest Arkansas, just as the Graham campaign acknowledges. The “R” after her name is probably all that most voters in Benton County need to know. To at least some degree, that reflexive opinion is probably right — particularly for those who are guided by a religious commitment to limiting medical rights for women or to embedding legal discrimination against sexual minorities in state law. Important as those issues might be, they are not singularly important. You should hear veteran teacher Graham talk about his ideas about education, for example. It’s informed and inspiring. Unfortunately, the record suggests it’s probably irrelevant in Benton County, Ark. But he’s making the good fight and, for that, deserves a mention today. Surprise me, Benton County voters. Vote for the best qualified candidate.