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Bill Halter: Don't Call Me a Liberal

Arkansas Lieutenant Governor Bill Halter isn't running a primary challenge against Democratic Sen. Blanche Lincoln because she is too moderate, he said today on "Washington Unplugged." Instead, he is running because Washington is too beholden to special interests.

Arkansas voters, Halter told moderator Nancy Cordes, "want somebody to take on special interest groups that seem to have the ability to stymie so many needed reforms."

Halter announced yesterday that he will take on Lincoln, who was already facing a tough re-election campaign. Lincoln has been under considerable pressure as a moderate Democrat to take certain positions on President Obama's health care plans.

Halter has been championed by progressive activists like Jane Hamsher of the blog FireDogLake as an alternative to Lincoln. Halter's alliance with progressive groups could pose a risk to whichever Democrat wins the primary once they face off against a Republican in the moderate state, some have said.

Halter, however, resisted any ideological label for himself.

"On some issues I'm conservative, on some issues I'm progressive," he said. "I'm getting support from across the political spectrum. The people who recruited me into this race are Arkansans."

He added, "People want somebody to stand up for them because they believe they don't have the connection they need" to their representatives.

Lincoln has fared dismally in recent recent polls. Halter, meanwhile, has won the backing of the AFL-CIO, the influential labor organization.

Running his campaign as an outsider, Halter touted his populist history in Arkansas state politics. He said he pushed for a massive scholarship program for the state, funded by a newly-instituted state lottery. Initially, only 17 state legislators publicly supported the effort, he said. After it won support on the ballot, however, he said all 135 lawmakers came out in support of it.

"Using some creativity and common sense you can get good things done for Arkansas families," he said.

He pointed to the financial bailout as an example of policy in Washington that did not do enough for regular people.
"Arkansans look at this and they see the power of special interests," Halter said.

You can watch the whole interview above. Also on today's show is Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, who is often mentioned as a possible 2012 Republican presidential candidate.

"Washington Unplugged" appears live on each weekday at 12:30 p.m. ET. Click here to check out previous episodes.