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MOORE ON MAUMELLE | Who will be the next kingof the forest in Arkansas?

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be attending the Political Animals Club meetings to hear the potential gubernatorial candidates. I do this with great sacrifice, having to be at the Little Rock Club at 7 a.m. for each of the four meetings. I attended my first last week.

The first speaker was Asa Hutchinson, one of three Republican candidates. Granted, I’m no John Brummett, but I’ll offer up my thoughts on each of the candidates.

The coolest part about the first meeting was sitting with the real media folks including Andrew DeMillo, a fine writer with The Associated Press.

The 2014 Arkansas Governor’s race will be one of the most interesting in a long time. Dustin McDaniel has already dropped out due to personal issues and Bill Halter dropped out as I was writing this.

I think no one really cared that Bill was running. He said he wanted to avoid a divisive primary. That means he wanted to avoid being annihilated and spending a bunch of his own money.

Mike Ross has raised a ton of money, but Asa was the first out of the chute, announcing his candidacy in early April. Mike Ross was right behind him, also in April.

You know Asa don’t you? He started out the meeting by making sure the audience knew that he was the married Hutchinson. Brother and former U.S. Senator Tim had a few domestic issues a few years back and has been under the radar for a few years.

Asa made the point that he and wife, Susan, had been married for over 40 years and that she was an important part for the team. Glad we got that straight.

Asa has been around for a while and was most recently the front man for the NRA as the director of the National School Shield Emergency Response Program. He lost in the 2006 race for governor against another Mike named Beebe. He has been a congressman from the Third District, a candidate for the U.S. Senate against Dale Bumpers and against Winston Bryant for attorney general. He lost all three races.

Now he wants to live the life in the governor’s mansion. Seems like it would make sense with a Republican House and Senate.

His talk to the Political Animals group was pretty buttoned down and focused on tort reform and income tax reform — pretty dry topics for a 7 a.m. meeting. He says our income tax is too high compared to surrounding states and is hindering economic progress (jobs). It’s always about jobs isn’t it? Asked by the real reporters after the talk the specifics of his plan, he wasn’t ready to reveal many details.

He also said that tort reform would be “back on the table.” I’m no legal expert and really don’t totally understand tort reform, but my understanding is that it relates to limiting the amount of civil lawsuits and damage awards. I doubt seriously the average voter will be very concerned with this discussion. Lawyers don’t want legislators messin’ with their business.

Lowering the income tax, however, will be popular with the voters. We love voting against taxes, sometimes even when we need them. I remember an elderly person telling me she was voting against a school tax because her kids were grown. Not an uncommon stance.

I think being Arkansas governor would be a great job. You get a very nice house downtown, you get state troopers making sure nobody messes with you and yours and you have a staff of servants, albeit prisoners, making sure the house is clean and your meals are prepared.

And usually once you’re elected, you get eight years in office. Granted, the pay is not great at just under $90,000 but former governors have a way of doing OK after they are out office. (See Huckabee, Clinton, Tucker, Pryor, etc.) By the way, as with many state rankings, the governor’s pay is 49th in the country.

The next candidate I’ll hear is Curtis Coleman, followed by Mike Ross and then Debra Hobbs. More about them to come.

My early prediction to win is Mike Ross, especially with Halter out of the race. Political analyst Bill Vickery says Ross is a “dead man walking” for voting for Obamacare.

Ross has the most money, more personality than Asa, although not much, and weirdly, we Arkansans tend to vote for a Democratic governor in spite of a totally Republican congressional delegation except for Mark Pryor. And he’s kind of Republican light.

I think the other Republican contenders have a chance against either Asa or Mike. I really wish Mike Beebe could run one more time. I bet he wishes he could too.

See you on the Boulevard.

Neal Moore owns a creative consulting firm, Neal Moore Creative. He has lived in Maumelle over 10 years. Contact him at neal.moore@sbcglobal.net. Follow him on Facebook or on Twitter, @kneelmore.

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