Bill Halter Dusts Off Obama Playbook

Sen. Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark., prior to a news conference on Wall Street Reform on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, April 20, 2010. (AP Photo/Harry Hamburg)
AP Photo/Harry Hamburg

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. - At the final debate before many voters head to the polls Tuesday, Arkansas Democratic Senate challenger Bill Halter had one clear message to voters: "You can continue with the same Washington policies, or you can vote for change."

Halter (pictured), the state's lieutenant governor, spent most of the debate trying to paint incumbent Sen. Blanche Lincoln as a Washington insider who's tied at the hip to Wall Street and special interest groups.

"She has taken $125,000 in campaign contributions from those banks and I'm going to ask her today to give those contributions back," he said, "because it is past time that middle class Arkansas families to have a senator who represents them and not the Chamber of Commerce and not people with $10 million in wealth."

Lincoln ignored Halter's call to return the funds and responded by saying she's the only person on the stage who's fought special interest groups, referring to a financial reform bill she's hoping to get through the Senate after the primary.

"I stood up to special interests and produced the toughest bill of anybody in Washington," she said.

Although the tone of the debate was mostly civil, Halter shot first during his opening remarks.


"Sen. Lincoln (at left) has referred to herself as the rope in a tug-of-war between competing interests, constantly being pulled in different directions. Folks, as your United States senator, I won't be the rope. I'll be the guy pulling the rope on behalf of middle-class families," he said.

The debate covered a variety of topics, from campaign finance reform to nuclear weapons strategy and labor laws.

The hour long back-and-forth, hosted by the Clinton School of Public Service, also included D.C. Morrison, a conservative Democrat running in the race who is seen as a long shot to win the nomination.

More from the Debate: Long Shot Candidate Gets a Rise from Debate Crowd