Arkansas 1st District Congressional Candidates Debate Library and Economic Development
Candidates for Arkansas’ 1st congressional district disagreed during Thursday’s Arkansas PBS debate when the Jonesboro Library emerged.
An initiative to nearly halve funding for the Craighead County library system in Jonesboro will be presented to voters on Nov. 8.
State Rep. Monte Hodges, the Democratic candidate for Congress, said he was against it.
Incumbent Congressman Republican Rick Crawford didn’t say whether he was for or against, but he said people don’t hear both sides of this issue.
“What brought this issue to the fore was the fact that the Jonesboro Library was engaging in an LGBTQ story hour for kids, things of that nature,” Crawford said. “It’s not a true reflection of the needs and wants of the community it serves. And so the change initiative which seems to have met with resistance from people in the library.
“And so, while I don’t like the idea of cutting funding to institutions that I think are important, I also don’t like the idea of being indoctrinated by those institutions that are funded by people’s money. taxpayers. So the onus is on this institution to make the appropriate changes, and we don’t see that happening.”
Hodges said some people have made library funding political.
“There were people who had concerns about it, but you had those who didn’t have concerns about it, so we need to be sure we’re speaking on behalf of everyone, not just one. certain part of the people who we represent,” Hodges said. “We’ve made it political, and we can’t use our strong arms of politics and politicians to be bullies when it comes to issues like our libraries.
Later in the debate, when asked if popular opinion should guide library programming, Crawford said, “What I’m saying is that popular opinion is hugely influential.”
“The reality is if you have an individual who enjoys pornography, should we put pornography in the library?” asked Crawford. “Well, my opponent says yes because we have to serve everyone, so let’s put porn in the library. No, I think we’re definitely drawing a line. I don’t think it’s appropriate to indoctrinate or sexualize children, so I think anyone So however you go about indoctrinating or sexualizing children, I think that’s wrong, and I think most people would agree with that.
“If that’s the case here, why don’t you try to reflect the wishes of the people you claim to serve? I think that’s the crux of this issue, and that’s not what we’re talking about. I therefore think it is important that the people of the library reflect on its mission to serve the community at large.”
“Saying porn is going a bit far,” Hodges said. “I have a 13-year-old son and I take him to the library. … I’m not going to take him anywhere that I know is inappropriate for my child because I’m the adult. We serve We serve everyone world, it’s ALL CAPS, everyone. For us to categorize, divide people into categories, and say this person is right and this person is wrong, that’s not the way we should operate, and I think that’s the way of thinking when you have a group of narrow-minded people who oppose the library, and that’s not how we should operate.”
Hodges addressed the library issue again at a press conference after the Conway debate.
“I am a Christian,” he said. “I don’t have to hammer you with a cross and a Bible. That’s not my chosen job.”
“It’s called censorship what they’re trying to do, and it’s just not right,” Hodges said in a post-debate phone interview.
“Our system of government gives the people a say in how taxpayers’ money is spent,” Crawford said in response to Hodges’ comment. “Although this is a local issue with no connection to the federal government, my general observation is that the positioning of the library has created an unfortunate firestorm that has put its own budget at risk. The final decision will be taken by Craighead County voters in just over two weeks.
“The other issue is that the library has a surplus of $6.4 million and will have about $7.5 million at the end of this month, which can only be used for operations and maintenance as per the county officials. I believe in a strong library, but they have more than enough funds right now.”
Crawford has been in Congress since 2011. He serves on the agriculture, transportation, and intelligence committees.
Hodges has served at Arkansas House since 2013, representing District 55, which includes parts of Crittenden and Mississippi counties. He did not run for re-election there, choosing instead to run for Congress.
Previously, Hodges was a member of Blytheville City Council. He is senior vice president of commercial lending at Southern Bancorp, Arkansas’ largest community development bank.
Hodges has touted Mississippi County’s economic growth since taking office, saying a corner of the state considered “economically dead” is now the largest steel producer in the United States with revenue highest weekly rates of any district in Arkansas. Hodges said he worked to secure Amendment 82 incentives to attract Big River Steel, which built a $1.3 billion plant in the county. NUCOR Corp. also expanded its manufacturing operations to Blytheville. Hodges said Mississippi County now has three steel mills.
Crawford touted his agricultural background, saying not all economic developments result in smokestacks.
“We need to look beyond Mississippi County throughout the 1st District and recognize the need for economic development,” he said. “It’s not always smokestacks on the horizon. Sometimes it’s small family businesses that have three, four or five employees that can help strengthen rural economies, and so I think it’s also important to do that. to note.”
Asked about protection along the US southern border, Hodges said: “I can’t focus on issues like border protection when we have issues and concerns here in our backyard. court, especially in this 1st congressional district, which is a poor neighborhood. A saying I heard when I was a kid is “Charity begins at home. Bingo is overseas. So we need to focus on our issues here at home before trying to address our issues overseas at this stage.
“Well, I think we have to walk and chew gum at the same time,” Crawford said, responding to Hodges’ comment. “We have to worry about our border crisis. It’s imperative. It’s a national security imperative. We have to have a secure border. If we don’t have a secure border, we don’t have a country.”
Crawford was asked about his vote to not certify Joe Biden’s election as President of the United States.
“There were two states involved in the certification, Arizona and Pennsylvania,” Crawford said. “In both of these cases, there was a demonstrable violation of the U.S. Constitution in that unauthorized individuals changed the election law on a cycle, while it was happening, whether it was a judge who extended the time for absentee ballots or when the Secretary of State or the Commissioner who authorized for drop boxes in authorized locations, whatever.
“Article 1, Section 4, is clear. The power to regulate elections rests exclusively with the state legislatures. Governors cannot change the law. Secretaries of state cannot change the law, and judges cannot. more. It was the basis of my decision and no other conspiracy theory or fraud theory was present.”
In his final comment, Hodges touted his Mississippi County background, the son of a single mother who raised four children.
“She taught us to work hard, to go to church every Sunday, and to love God, to love family, and to love community,” Hodges said. “I served my district. They sent me back to Little Rock five times to be their voice, and I’m asking them to send me to DC to be a voice for everyone. I’ve proven in the east of Arkansas what can happen when you put the job in place.
“I want to take advantage of this Mississippi County miracle that I’ve seen in my district throughout the 1st District so they can have every opportunity. We in the Delta want every opportunity. We want every convenience. and all the things that anyone We want good roads and good bridges, good infrastructure, good rural broadband We want good health care We want our teachers to earn a decent salary.
In his final comment in the debate, Crawford said Americans are living in tough times.
“Our nation faces challenges at home and abroad,” he said. “Skyrocketing interest rates, soaring inflation. We have a dominating, rising, belligerent China fueling our fentanyl crisis flowing across our border unchecked. Ukraine at war with Russia. President Biden, when he was elected, promised to be a unifier. Instead, he was a divider. He pushed our economy to the brink of collapse, and from the beginning, Speaker Nancy Pelosi has been his willing accomplice. We have to turn back before it’s too late.