WALNUT RIDGE, Ark. – Democratic State Representative James Ratliff and his challenger, Republican Fran Cavenaugh, each hope to represent district 60. They agree on some things and disagree on others but both firmly believe themselves to be the right choice.
We asked each candidate a series of questions about the same subjects in hopes to bring the readers of NEA Report a better idea of who they may vote for in this wide-stretching race across Sharp, Lawrence, Randolph, Independence and even Greene counties.
How Would You Like To Improve Education in Arkansas
For Ratliff, he talked about how he has worked on improving education in Arkansas in the past six years he has spent as State Representative. One area he wants to see more done with is pre-K.
“We have to get every kid that’s qualified in a pre-K program,” Ratliff said. “It’s been shown when they go to pre-K, they always graduate high school. The pre-K now, you have to qualify and at Sloan Hendrix, we’ve got a waiting list of like 20 kids. It’s very important to get them started as soon as possible so they’ll succeed. The other thing we need to do – for older kids who go to college, we need to tie in and make them accountable when they go to school. We don’t need them to say they can go to Fayetteville for a year, party, and come home and get a job. We need to make them pay back the pell grants and scholarships if they go up there and just don’t go to class.”
Education is one of Cavenaugh’s biggest focuses and she advocates implementing vocational training into high schools, preparing youth for the jobs communities need and they can earn good money with. She also said this would help lessen debt burdens on young people.
“One of the biggest things I keep talking about, and I feel like I’m almost preaching on: we have to provide our children with facets of success other than a four-year college degree,” Cavenaugh said. “For years told our children there was only one path to success: a four year degree. That is not true not necessary for each person. I do believe a high school education will only get you minimum wage jobs. You need added training but that can be vocational training. We need plumbers, HVAC repairmen and electricians. If you’ve tried to hire them, you know they make a very livable wage. We’ve forgotten to tell our children these are viable jobs. Not everyone is cut out for a four-year college degree. We have to start looking at it in school and looking at what jobs will be available so when they graduate.”
How Can You Assure Farmers You Will Represent Their Best Interests
Coming from a farm family, Cavenaugh said she became the farmer after her father passed away. She said she knows and worries about the same issues farmers do, coming from that background.
“They can expect support from someone who has dealt with the real issues farmers experience,” Cavenaugh said. “It’s different from other parts of the country. This year, a prime example – two floods. A first in the spring knocking out planting. Then in August, you get 14 inches of rain. The beans or cotton or rice, or corn is now standing under water. You don’t experience that in a lot of different places. It’s different for Delta farmers. We have to find a way to support our farmers in their greatest time of need. There are no family farms anymore. They’re going out. People want to know why they’re going out. It costs more to put the crop in than you’ll currently get paid for it. How can any industry sustain that? They can’t. We’ve got to find a way to help curb that problem that we’re experiencing.”
Ratliff comes from a farming background, as well. The incumbent said he knows the ups and downs of farming, being a farmer himself, and he knows this community is tied to agriculture.
“Our whole base is related to agriculture,” Ratliff said. “If the farmers have a good year, the economy has a good year. I think you’ll see that this year because the prices are terrible and the floods, and stuff. We’re working hard to try to move to get a farm bill going in Washington. We’ve got to do that to save our farmers. We don’t want to import food from the United States. We’ve done seen some of that from Mexico and we’ve got salmonella involved. We give farmers tax breaks on their electricity, natural gas, and every break we can give them down in Little Rock. (Another representative) and I have a bill we’re going to try to take tax and parts off of labor, so when they go in to have a $20,000 job on a combine, they don’t end up paying $2,000 on the taxes, also. One poultry farmer told me when they took the tax off of propane, his profit that year was $24,000. That’s a lot of cash he got to keep.”
What Is The Biggest Difference Between You and Your Opponent
For Ratliff, he said the biggest difference is his six years experience in Little Rock and his seniority in the Democratic minority.
“When you have a problem, you can go directly to the folks in RCS of whatever. They listen to you if you’ve been there,” Ratliff said. “If you’re a new person down there, they’ll listen to you but they ain’t going to take you as seriously. I discovered that when I went down there. It was kind of frustrating when you couldn’t get their attention as well. Now, with the seniority, I’m involved in the RCA and we had budget meetings Tuesday. I feel like that, and experience of knowing who everybody is, all the department heads, who to call when you’ve got a problem, will give me an advantage.”
Cavenaugh said the distinctive quality is her passion for the area and the district, with her desire to see it better.
“Not saying James doesn’t want that also, but it’s me saying I’m a little more aggressive, a little more outspoken, and I think I can get a little more attention than James,” Cavenaugh said. “I’ve been described as a bulldog. I’m that way about anything I’m passionate about. The other thing is, James will be a senior person in the minority party. I will be a majority. As we all know, the Republicans would really love to have a Republican in all of this. Even me as a beginning freshman in the majority, I can look to get a lot accomplish. I don’t want people to think I’m only work with Republicans. I’ll take a good idea, wherever it’s from and I’ll support it.”
Both candidates have A ratings from the NRA. Ratliff, as a previous voting member, has achieved his through his voting record while Cavenaugh’s positions have similarly earned her the accolade.
Both candidates are also pro-life, they said.
The election happens November 8.