On Friday, September 23, Dan and I attended the NEA Political Animals debate at First National Bank on Hilltop. Coverage of the debate made the front page of the Jonesboro Sun Saturday, September 24.
You can view the debate here: https://www.facebook.com/klekfm/videos/759261295151286/
You can find alt text here:
Alt text: a newspaper article title that reads, “State Senate candidates make their points by Keith Inman, Sun Staff Writer.” The body of the article reads, “JONESBORO – The hot button issues of abortion, censorship, the environment and teacher pay dominated the discussion Friday as the local candidates for state Senate participated in a forum sponsored by the Northeast Arkansas Political Animals.
Democrat Chenoa Summers is challenging Republican incumbent Dan Sullivan in District 20, which covers most of Craighead County.
After serving in the House of Representatives, Sullivan was elected to the Senate in 2020. Because of redistricting, he is on the ballot again this year, seeking a full four-year term.
After growing up in poverty in Jackson County, Summers says she has earned four degrees and is working on a fifth degree at Arkansas State University, currently employed as a student research assistant in a botany lab at the university.
“My plate form is based on life, liberty, and love,” Summers told the group. She wants to improve the quality of life for everyone in District 20, by giving everyone a living wage, expanding Medicaid coverage for children and making sure teachers and support staff are paid adequately.
In the liberty category, Summers said she advocated easier access for voters, personal privacy with regard to reproductive rights and legalization of recreational marijuana.
As for love, she said her mother taught her to love everyone.
“So that means regardless of religion, regardless of your race, your creed, your national origin, your sex, your gender, whatever it may be, I’m here to represent everybody,” Summers said during her opening statement.
Sullivan said there’s a stark contrast between what Summers stands for and his positions.
“When you look at what Progressive Democrats stand for, they stand for things far outside what we and I as conservative Republicans stand for,” Sullivan said. It’s not just his opposition to abortion, but many other issues, he said.
For example, he said Progressive Democrats want to eliminate fossil fuels, which he said farmers must rely on. He said that would be “the death knell of our economy.”
Summers said the supply of fossil fuels is “running out. So we’re going to have to shift over to renewable energy, whether we like it or not.”
She said legislation passed by Congress provides tax incentives for consumers and businesses to transition to renewable energy products, such as solar energy and electric vehicles.
Sullivan implied Democratic policy would force those alternatives on the people.
“Like it or not, you’re getting them,” he said.
“Can you imagine running … an electric tractor out here? Folks, it’ll put our farmers out of business,” Sullivan said. “While electric vehicles have their place in some instances, it can’t be reliable in all phases of the economy.”
“For those of you who live in an apartment, where will you charge your vehicle? When you have 500 people living in an apartment complex, how do you charge them? I don’t know.”
“Says the person who has stock in Shell,” Summers replied, attracting laughter from both sides of the debate.
Summers said she decided to become politically active after the Craighead County Jonesboro Public Library “came under attack.”
“I represent the people of Jonesboro and the people of Craighead County,” Sullivan said. “And I know the people of Craighead County have grave concerns over the direction of the library. And those are the people I represent.”
While Summers said she would fight for the rights of the LGBTQ community, Sullivan said he wants individual school boards to decide policies regarding transgender students.
He also opposes Summers’ proposal for free tuition for community colleges, saying it would require tax increases.