Causey downplays poll, label as a D.C. Insider

June 10, 2010

LITTLE ROCK — A day after Chad Causey narrowly won Tuesday’s 1st Congressional District Democratic runoff, his defeated opponent hedged on an endorsement and Republicans painted him as a Washington insider destined for a November defeat.

Causey shot back with the news that his Republican opponent Rick Crawford has a Washington, D.C., fundraiser scheduled next week while downplaying the indecision of his run-off opponent, Tim Wooldridge. His staff dismissed Crawford’s poll showing their candidate with a six-point lead as being irrelevant so far out from November.

Wooldridge, who led the May 18 preferential primary by a substantial margin and lost the runoff by a hair, said Wednesday that he hasn’t decided whether he’ll endorse Causey.

Causey campaign director Anders Reynolds said they’d welcome the support of “any and every Democrat,” including Wooldridge.

“Tim’s obviously a popular guy here,” Reynolds said.

Wooldridge, a former state senator from Paragould, said he has exchanged “kind voice mails” with Causey, who beat him by less than two thousand votes in the 26-county eastern Arkansas district, but hadn’t talked to him.

On Tuesday, Causey won with 38,829 votes to Wooldridge’s 36,824 or 51 to 49 percent, according to complete but unofficial results.

Wooldridge, 50, said the negative tone in the three week runoff “was kind of disenchanting” and the “personal attacks” on his religion – Church of Christ – wounded him.

“It’s just like if someone were to say something ill about my mom. It’s a loving group of people that is concerned about their fellow man,” Wooldridge said.

The Causey campaign never officially touched the religion issue, but the “whispers” from Causey supporters were insistent. Arkansas News columnist John Brummett raised the Church of Christ issue in a May 30 column.

On Wednesday, Reynolds condemned any negative campaigning about Wooldridge’s religion, saying that Causey never sanctioned or engaged in it.

“It’s his choice and his right – we’re nothing but supportive of anybody practicing any religion. It’s a complete non-issue,” Reynolds said.

Causey, 34, did question the depth of Wooldridge’s commitment to the Democratic Party. A news release from his campaign suggested that Wooldridge might bolt for the GOP if elected.

The idea was “silly to me, having served 22 years in elected office as a Democrat. I’m a conservative like many of the Democrats in the 1st District,” Wooldridge said.

Wooldridge promised that he “can take a tough loss” and be “disappointed without being devastated.”

He said his political future isn’t on his mind right now.

“You don’t ask a woman on night of her delivery if she will have more children. After the Legislature, I’ve never really been looking for my next race. I always said I don’t have to have a political title, those things sought me out,” he said.

Causey, a Jonesboro native, had criticism from more predictable fronts, too. The National Republican Congressional Committee took a page from Wooldridge’s campaign and labeled Causey “a Washington insider beholden to special interest lobbyists.”

But Causey’s campaign pointed to a June 15 Washington, D.C., fundraiser hosted by U.S. Rep. John Boozman – Arkansas’ Republican nominee for U.S. Senate – and Tennessee Republican Congressman Marsha Blackburn for Crawford, a Jonesboro agricultural broadcaster.

“It’s interesting that on the same day national Republicans attack Chad, it comes to light they are busy setting up a D.C. fundraiser for Crawford hosted by two Republicans who favor privatizing Social Security,” Reynolds said.

Crawford’s campaign referred to the negative back and forth of the Democratic runoff in its response.

“We’re focused on the issues, not the kind of negative attacks he used to tear down Tim Wooldridge,” said Jonah Shumate, Crawford’s campaign manager.

Crawford bested Princella Smith in the primary with 72 percent of the vote. He hasn’t yet received Smith’s endorsement.

Meanwhile, Crawford’s campaign released an internal poll showing his lead over Causey.

The poll surveyed 300 likely voters in the district on May 24-25 and has a margin of error of at least 5.66 percent.

“Arkansans have taken off their blinders. People like what they’re hearing from Rick,” said Shumate.

Causey’s campaign didn’t put much stock in the Crawford poll, citing the small sample size and its internal nature.

“If we saw anything last week we saw poll numbers that didn’t hold up,” Reynolds said, referring to a Wooldridge poll that showed their candidate with a huge lead.

Causey’s come-from-behind victory shows that he is a likable candidate with a strong message, Reynolds said.

“We’ve seen that once people get to know Chad, they like him. We’ll keep getting him out there,” he said.

Click here to read the full story.