Races of the Week

Arkansas’s 1st U.S. House District

Crawford vs. Causey

“If you drive a Chevy, own a John Deere tractor, go to a Baptist church, and vote Democratic, everything will be fine.”

Legend has it that this was the explanation why voters in Arkansas’s 1st District kept sending a Democrat to Congress no matter how liberal he or she was. The most recent House members elected from the 1st were not exactly conservative Democrats and could barely be defined as moderates: Sen.-to-be Blanche Lambert Lincoln (lifetime American Conservative Union rating: 19%) held the House seat from 1992-96 and the congressman since then has been liberal Democrat Marion Berry (lifetime ACU rating: 35.67%).

With Berry’s retirement this year, signs are strong that change is in the air in the district that stretches from the Mississippi Delta to the Ozarks. George W. Bush won the 1st with 52% of the vote in ’04 and John McCain carried it by a much wider margin in ’08. During his decade as governor, Republican Mike Huckabee always performed well in the 1st.

The next logical step in this political evolution would be the election of conservative Republican Rick Crawford as the new congressman from the district. The 44-year-old Crawford knows the 1st and its people as well as anyone. A graduate of Arkansas State University with degrees in agricultural business and communications, Crawford has been a TV news anchorman and rodeo announcer and worked for John Deere tractor. Four years ago, he and a friend formed a radio news network in Jonesboro. Initially using a farm-radio format, the network grew to 48 affiliates in five states and expanded into sports talk.

“We went from two employees to 12 in four years,” Crawford recalled, his “FM voice” filled with pride, “and it all started with using my 401(k) and home equity as a line of credit. So I know a something about how to create private-sector jobs.”

This fall, Crawford faces Democrat Chad Causey, top aide to outgoing Rep. Berry. Of his opponent, Crawford says: “I’d say we have some differences, all right. I’m strongly pro-life, he equivocates. I want that healthcare bill repealed—he was non-committal through the vote and later said, ‘Yeah, it was the right thing to do.’ I’m a job creator and a free-market, low-tax, small-government guy. He’s a Washington insider from the political class. Anything else you need to know?”

No, there isn’t. As folks in Arkansas’s 1st District say, “He’s one of us.” Conservatives everywhere should say the same about Rick Crawford, and help him bring some common sense from the Delta and the Ozarks to Washington.

(Crawford for Congress, P.O. Box 16956, Jonesboro, Ark., 72404; 870-203-0540; 

Mississippi’s 1st District

Nunnelee vs. Childers

It’s no exaggeration to say that Alan Nunnelee and adversity are longtime companions. A good part of Nunnelee’s 51 years, in fact, has been spent grappling with adverse and depressing situations.

For starters, as a high school student in Tupelo, Miss., Nunnelee was legally blind. He recalled his grandfather’s teaching him to golf and how “I’d hit the golf ball with a nine-iron, but could not see how it landed.” Nunnelee discovered that he had severe irregularity of the cornea, so he could not drive and could read only with great difficulty.

That same year, Nunnelee received a blessing he has since been deeply thankful for: a cornea transplant that restored his vision. In his words, “As long as I live, I will never forget when they took the patches off and the first thing I saw—very clearly—was my mother’s face.” He completed his unfinished course work to earn a degree at Mississippi State College and found a job at a small insurance company in Northern Mississippi.

Years later, Nunnelee’s company went through a merger with another business and he lost his job. So he and wife Tory sat down, drew a line down a sheet of paper, and determined what they formerly had and now would have in terms of money and how they would spend it. Eventually, he found another job as a life underwriter and also became a leader in the local Lion’s Club, which helps provide glasses for those who need them.

When his good friend Roger Wicker was elected to Congress in 1994, Nunnelee (who had been Wicker’s finance chairman) won his former seat in the state senate. As chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Nunnelee helped a fellow Republican, Gov. Haley Barbour, cut spending to fit the available revenue and get Mississippi back in the black.

Now Nunnelee is running for Congress against Democrat Travis Childers, who won the 1st District seat when Wicker moved on to the U.S. Senate. Childers is widely considered a “moderate” (lifetime American Conservative Union rating: 40%), and did oppose the healthcare bill that passed Congress.

“He opposed it because Nancy Pelosi didn’t need his vote,” says Nunnelee. “But he voted for the stimulus package when she needed him. I don’t like Nancy Pelosi very much and I would probably vote the opposite of her every time.”

The 2010 elections for Congress come down to those who want to uphold the liberal order that came to power in the elections of ’06 and ’08 and those who want to overcome that liberal order and restore genuine conservatism. What better choice could there be to help lead the conservatives than Alan Nunnelee, a proven “overcomer?” 

(Nunnelee for Congress, P. O. Box 7092, Tupelo, Miss. 38802;; 662-213-6859)


Pennsylvania’s 10th U.S. House District

Marino vs. Carney

To say the least, Tom Marino was a late bloomer. After finishing high school in his hometown of Williamsport, Pa., the young Marino worked in a factory, rising from loading supplies on trucks to becoming a night supervisor. At age 30, he decided to go to college and, after completing studies at Williamsport Area Community College, Marino earned a Bachelor of Arts degree magna cum laude from nearby Lycoming College.

From there, Marino went on to earn a law degree at the Dickinson School of Law. After several years in private practice, the late-starting lawyer decided that law enforcement was his calling and, in his first-ever race for office, Marino was elected district attorney of Lycoming County in 1991.

In New York, they still speak of Rudy Giuliani as a legendary lawman and many New Jerseyans recall Gov. Chris Christie from his days as a crusading federal prosecutor. And, in Lycoming County, citizens recall “Tough Tom” Marino—who spent ten years as district attorney and then went on to serve as U.S. attorney from 2002-2009—a spirited crime-buster who waged war on drug traffickers and organized crime.

Two years ago, Tom Marino was urged to run for Congress from the Keystone State’s 10th District, but declined. He was too busy as the top federal law enforcement official in the area. But now, at age 58, he’s the Republican nominee against two-term Democratic Rep. Chris Carney.

In 2006, Carney won his first term in the historically Republican 10th District when a Democratic tide was sweeping the nation and the GOP incumbent became embroiled in personal scandal. Two years ago, benefiting from a fractious Republican nomination battle and another Democratic tidal wave, Carney won his second term.

Political pundits frequently describe Carney as a “centrist” or “Blue Dog Democrat,” but his votes in Congress (lifetime American Conservative Union rating: 22.67%) indicate he’s more on the liberal side—a lot more. 

Declaring that Carney’s vote in favor of the healthcare bill that finally passed the House last year “says a lot about him,” Marino noted that “he knew very well the cost of it and voted for it. I want it repealed. And he knew very well that the executive order allegedly banning tax dollars for abortion does not have the force of law that the Stupak Amendment, which was cut out of the bill, would have had. Any third-year law student knows that.” A father of two adopted children, Marino opposes abortion under all circumstances except to save the life of the mother.

Yes, Tom Marino is a late-bloomer. But in blooming late as a lawman, his work was outstanding. If his fellow conservatives rally to him, he will surely have the same success as a congressman.

(Marino for Congress, P.O. Box 653, Williamsport, Pa. 17703; 570-337-2028;