The run-off primary election between Senator Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) and challenger Lt. Gov. Bill Halter (D-AR) is one of the primary elections most closely tracked by EFCA watchers. Senator Lincoln prominently announced she would not be supporting cloture on the bill back in March 2009, soon after Sen. Arlen Specter (then R-PA) made a similar announcement. These declarations were seen as the begining of the end for EFCA’s prospects in 2009. Unions and organized labor groups roundly criticized Sen. Lincoln, opening the door for Lt. Gov. Halter’s challenge. Politico now reports that Sen. Lincoln has declined to debate Lt. Gov. Halter until he states a clear position on EFCA:
“My stand on this legislation is the reason the D.C. unions are in Arkansas spending nearly $10 million attacking me and misrepresenting my record,” Lincoln said in a statement. “Arkansans know my record, and they deserve to know where Bill stands. If we are going to debate the issues, we both have to be willing to take a stand on the issues.”
There were three debates prior to the May 18 primary, in which Lincoln edged Halter but failed to reach the 50 percent required to avoid a June 8 runoff election. Says Politico:
In each debate, Halter has avoided a direct answer on the Employee Free Choice Act — legislation that would make it easier for workers to form unions — by saying the bill is no longer politically viable.
“The Employee Free Choice Act, or card check, as it has been called, is really no longer operative. If you talk to labor leaders or management leaders, that’s no longer on the table,” he said during the April 23 KATV debate.
“Card check’s not going to be brought back on the table. It’s really just that simple,” he said one day later at a debate before The Associated Press in Little Rock, later adding that he supports “speedier elections and more rigorous enforcement of free elections.”