-by Robb Ryerse
Political Director, Vote Common Good
For the past 15 years, I’ve made my home in the northwest corner of Arkansas. This area, which I call the best-kept secret in the country, is also home to Walmart, the University of Arkansas, and Tyson Foods.
But maybe our biggest home-grown celebrity is Jim Bob Duggar.
Jim Bob and his wife Michelle rose to national prominence through their reality TV show 19 and Counting. Jim Bob is the poster child for patriarchal, religious extremism. He runs his home with a set of rigid rules.
And now he wants to run the state of Arkansas in the same way.
A few weeks ago, my state senator, a rather nondescript conservative Republican, unexpectedly retired. A special election has been set for February 8th, just 60 days from now. To the best of my knowledge, this is the next election happening in the whole country.
Jim Bob wants to join one of the worst state legislatures in the nation. The Arkansas legislature has acted to limit rights for trans individuals, to restrict access to reproductive health care, to allow guns to be carried just about everywhere-- including bars, sporting events, and churches-- and to take away the power of municipalities and school boards to protect lives through mask mandates.
I can’t imagine how, but I think it will only get worse if Jim Bob joins this bunch in Little Rock.
Arkansas is a red state, but I believe this is a flippable seat. The state senate district overlaps significantly with a state house district that went blue in 2018 and stayed blue in 2020 when one of Jim Bob’s sons was defeated as the Republican nominee.
In a special election, turnout will be low, which means a strong campaign could pull the upset with sufficient resources to get it done.
Not to mention the potential backlash if Jim Bob is on the ballot. Sure, people know who he is and see his signs and billboards all over town. But his family has also been in the news locally and nationally for his son Josh’s child pornography case. Josh was an activist for the religious right before his career was cut short by revelations that he allegedly molested young girls, including family members, and was included in the Ashley Madison data breach. Those revelations also brought about the end of Jim Bob’s show 19 and Counting.
On Thursday, Josh was convicted in court and is now facing up to 20 years in prison when he is sentenced.
Can you imagine putting signs up all over town that you’re running for state senate while your son is on trial for child pornography just down the road? I can’t.
Maybe Jim Bob isn’t to be blamed for his son’s actions, though I know some people who do think his style of parenting and choices enabled Josh. But I don’t want to risk it. I don’t want Jim Bob Duggar anywhere near the halls of power in my state.
That’s why I’m going to be voting for Lisa Parks.
Lisa is a child welfare attorney who is running to represent the people of this district, not to impose a brand of religious extremism on the state’s population. While I’m personally much more progressive than Lisa is on a bunch of issues, I believe she can be trusted to do what’s best for people.
And given the alternative, I think we’ve got to do everything we can to help her win.
Lisa is a great human being who is running a great campaign. She just needs resources.
I really don’t want Jim Bob Duggar to be my state senator.
So, I’m asking … maybe even begging … you to support Lisa and send a message that religious extremism needs to be opposed everywhere it’s found, even in a red state. Because, for better or worse, Arkansas is my home and home to a lot of people who are bound to be hurt if we don’t work together to stop it.