Conner Eldridge visits Mount Ida

    Conner Eldridge, the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate, visits with Jose Tijerina and Lety Hendrix at the Mount Ida Cafe. He stopped by the cafe and the courthouse as he traveled through the area on his “Hear Arkansas’s Voices” tour.  Photo by Dewayne Holloway
    Conner Eldridge, the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate, visits with Jose Tijerina and Lety Hendrix at the Mount Ida Cafe. He stopped by the cafe and the courthouse as he traveled through the area on his “Hear Arkansas’s Voices” tour.
    Photo by Dewayne Holloway

    MOUNT IDA – Conner Eldridge wants to bring a type of change to a federal system that is mired in partisanship that will provide results for the people of Arkansas.
    Eldridge, who is seeking a seat in the U.S. Senate, has served Arkansas as a federal prosecutor for the past five years.
    As a federal prosecutor for the Western District of Arkansas he served 34 counties including Montgomery County. He was involved in every county case from child predators, to theft, to drug cases.
    “Justice is an important thing to pursue.” Eldridge stated while talking about his time as a prosecutor.
    He added that he has three little boys ages nine, five and four and he and his wife are working hard to raise them right.
    Although serving as a federal prosecutor is an important job, Eldridge feels that the opportunity to do the most good for major issues that affect our country can be found in the U.S. Senate.
    As a part of his campaign he is traveling across Arkansas on his “Hear Our Voices” Tour, or “Hear Arkansas’s Voices” Tour. Eldridge stated that he feels it is important to listen to what the people have to say.
    This tour brought him through Montgomery County Monday. He stopped at the Mount Ida Cafe and visited with people about a variety of issues.
    He stated that people all over Arkansas were saying that people in Washington aren’t listening to them and are just bickering and blaming. His tour around the state is giving him an opportunity to listen to what the people of the state have to say.
    “I believe the job of a Senator is to listen to the people that you are going to represent across the state, not just in cities, but in rural areas too, and then go to Washington and fight for them.” He said.
    Eldridge stated that his opponent, Senator John Boozman, is a nice enough man, but he has been in Washington for 15 years and he feels that it is time for a change.
    “I’m ready to provide some new leadership, some new energy, some new passion to get things done for this state.” He stated.
    His time as a prosecutor has helped shape his focus in the senate. He stated that his number one focus would be issues affecting kids.
    Eldridge said that the first bill he would put before the senate would provide life sentences for child predators. He explained that as a prosecutor he has prosecuted some horrible cases involving small children. He added that we have some bad people walking among us. He feels that part of the answer is to do everything we can to support law enforcement and to change the laws to make sure the penalties are harsh enough for really bad child abuse cases.
    “Victims of crime don’t know party affiliation. Their not concerned with Republicans or Democrats. They’re concerned about the right thing and that is what I think a U.S. Senator ought to be concerned about.” He said.
    Eldridge responded to the question whether or not his desire for stiffer penalties might be viewed in light of recent backlash against previous federal attempts to provide stiffer prison sentences for drug crimes.
    He stated that he feels there are a lot of false choices presented on both sides of issues and he feels that criminal justice is one of those issues.
    Eldridge stated that you don’t have to choose between providing programs for people as they get out of prison and creating programs for children in at risk situations, trying to have a different approach for nonviolent first time offenders, particularly first time recreational drug use offenders. He said that we ought to have a different view on how we look at those kinds of situations, but we also shouldn’t apologize for being tough on bad criminals that threaten our communities. He added that he didn’t think you have to choose between the two.
    Federally funded healthcare is a distinguishing issue in the race. Eldridge stated that he is opposed to the efforts to repeal the Affordable Healthcare Act, commonly called Obamacare. He pointed out that his opponent has voted to repeal the act over 50 times.
    Eldridge stated that he supports Governor Asa Hutchinson’s “Arkansas Works” plan and he supported the private option plan created by former Governor Mike Beebe. He also feels that Arkansas needs a senator that will work to preserve these options.
    “Our senator has said he has no qualms kicking 250,000 Arkansans off healthcare and I think that is a big deal.” Eldridge stated regarding his opponent Senator John Boozman.
    He stated that he is opposed to Democrats who feel the Affordable Healthcare Act is a perfect law. He believes there are many things in the act that need fixed.
    He feels we need bigger tax breaks for smaller businesses who have shouldered a lot of the expense. He also feels we need to do something about the cost in the system.
    He added that although the Affordable Healthcare Act has helped hospitals we are seeing the middle class face higher premiums and deductibles and that is the symptom of what is wrong with the process.
    When asked about the need for new criminal justice facilities, prisons and jails in Arkansas, he stated that there are certainly several federal options that can offer aid to help with various aspects of the criminal justice system.
    He said that he feels his job as a senator would be to fight for federal funding for local law enforcement.
    Eldridge stated that another issue of importance to him is the national debt which has tripled in the past 15 years. He says that he parts company with a lot of Democrats on this issue. He would seek to work with people from both parties to work to reduce the debt.
    He pointed out that his opponent has been in congress the entire time that the debt has gone from six trillion dollars to 19 trillion. He added that he believes everyone who has been in Washington while this has happened and didn’t do anything about it should bear responsibility for it.
    He admitted that fixing the debt problem will involve a lot of tough decisions, but at the end of the day it’s about math.
    “We can’t keep borrowing money hand over fist. There has to be an end to that.” He said.
    Regarding foreign policy he stated that his view on the issue is that we as a nation need a strong unapologetic, yet realistic foreign policy. To him that means we don’t apologize and we are going in strong to protect our interests and to protect our people.
    “We’ll go after anybody who comes after us.” He stated.
    He added that we are going to work with our allies to bring about peace in the right way. Part of what that means is that we don’t go in alone shouldering all the cost for the whole world, which is a fiscally responsible thing to do.
    When asked about normalizing ties with Cuba and its affect on the agriculture industry in Arkansas Eldridge stated that he worked on the issue in 1999 and 2000 with then Arkansas Congressman Marion Berry. Growing up on a rice farm in Eastern Arkansas gives him a personal perspective on the impact this issue could have on Arkansas farmers.
    He acknowledged that this is a bipartisan issue with members of both parties opposing and supporting the issue. He personally supports opening up trade with Cuba to include agricultural and pharmaceutical trade in particular.
    He feels the best way to change their way of government is to open up trade.

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