A number of endorsements have been announced for both candidates in the race for House District 97, the most notable of which is that of Gov. Mike Beebe throwing his support behind the Democrat candidate, Robert "Butch" Berry of Eureka Springs.
His opponent, Republican Bob Ballinger, has been endorsed by the Arkansas Home Builders Association, Carroll/Boone Home Builders Association, and the National Federation of Independent Business, officials at those organizations confirmed this week.
Additional organizations that have endorsed Berry are the Arkansas Professional Firefighters Association, the Arkansas AFL-CIO, Arkansas State Employees Association, the Naturally Blue PAC, and the Arkansas Education Association.
Berry's campaign has been running radio and newspaper advertisements over the past few weeks announcing the Beebe endorsement. In the radio commercial, Beebe -- who was unavailable for comment but whose political spokesman confirmed the endorsement on Monday -- Beebe says: "I'm Governor Mike Beebe, and with your vote for Butch Berry as your state representative, you'll be sending a man who brings to Little Rock welcomed experience.
"Butch is a small business owner, he's been on the Eureka Springs City Council for eight years, and with his knowledge of the legislative process, he'll represent your district and the state well. I've endorsed Butch because he's committed as I am to continue our efforts of maintaining a balanced budget, creating jobs and developing our economic growth for our communities. Vote for Butch Berry for state representative."
The president of Arkansas AFL-CIO, Allen Hughes, did not return calls seeking comment about his group's endorsement of Berry by press time.
But John Bridges, who heads the ASEA committee that decides which candidates that organization will throw its weight behind, said earlier this year that as a former state employee -- Berry worked for the state as director of capitol zoning when he lived in Little Rock -- the Eureka Springs alderman understands state employees' concerns -- the greatest of which currently is making sure a cost of living adjustment is included in next year's budget.
"(Berry) was very sincere when we discussed our organization's issues," Bridges said. "He gave me very straightforward, thoughtful answers, and I knew then that he really cared about helping his constituents to the best of his ability.
"We believe he will bring common sense to the State Capitol and work hard for all Arkansans."
Jason Morris, president of the Eureka Springs chapter of the Arkansas Professional Firefighters Association, explained that his group is supporting Berry because of the alderman's support of firefighters and their needs in the city budget.
"He's stuck beside us, supported us, and so we decided to return the favor," Morris said.
The Arkansas Education Association endorsement of Berry is based on public education issues only, explained Marlo James with the AEA's Northwest Arkansas office. Berry received the endorsement after completing a survey that is sent to all candidates for state office, she said.
Calls to the Naturally Blue PAC seeking comment about their endorsement of Berry were not returned by press time.
Ballinger's endorsement from the NFIB came in part because "he is a small business owner, so he knows first-hand the challenges small business owners face," explained NFIB State Director Sylvester Smith.
"Mr. Ballinger is for small government, low taxes, and less regulation," Smith continued. "We believe he would support a state business climate that would both improve the prospects for small firms, and allow the state to recruit large out of state employers."
Ballinger also received the endorsement of the county and state Home Builders Associations, of which he has been an active member for several years. He is a former executive officer of the Carroll County HBA.
Darlene Strough, president-elect of the AHBA, explained that most of the AHBA is made up of small business owners, and that they are a major source of employment across the state and country.
"The ever increasing regulations, fees, and taxes are crippling the ability of small businesses to be the job creators. Home builders in particular have been among the hardest hit by the recession, with an alarming number of builders forced out of business," Strough continued. "Recovery is very slow in coming to our industry. Bob believes that government should be smaller and less intrusive, and that policies should be implemented to ease some of the burden on small businesses. He believes in a fiscally responsible government that balances its budget, not by increasing taxes but by decreasing unnecessary spending."
Calls to the Carroll/Boone HBA about that group's endorsement of Ballinger were not returned by press time.