Wednesday, May 16, 2012
The rest of you can go all right-wing if you want. And you certainly seem to want.
Those of us living in the liberal bastions of central Little Rock will occupy ourselves, thank you, with our own little isolated left-wing battle royal.
This is for the seat in the state House of Representatives to succeed Kathy Webb, who, sadly, is term-limited.
Webb entered the Legislature as the first openly gay member. Then she proceeded to win the trust of good ol’ boy colleagues and even Republicans who admired her command of the budget and her work ethic and that she shot straight.
A former restaurateur at Lilly’s Dim Sum Then Some, in which she no longer has any interest, Webb spent two terms as chairman of the Joint Budget Committee. She managed to reform primitive attitudes toward at least one gay or lesbian person—herself—if not necessarily others.
Two liberal Democratic candidates are seeking to succeed her.
I’ve known one—Warwick Sabin—a long time, on personal and political and professional levels. I like and admire him exceedingly. I’ve known the other—Mark Robertson—only a short time. But I forged a powerful admiration for him in that time.
I share a generational bond with Robertson. Sabin is the whiz kid who positively wows you with his energy and all that he accomplishes.
Hailing from the upper west side of Manhattan, Sabin was a student standout at the University of Arkansas and as a Marshall Scholar at Oxford University.
Later he raised money for the Clinton Library, did press for Marion Berry, then wrote for the Arkansas Times, then did press for the University of Central Arkansas and, most lately, has been publisher and savior of the literary gem known as the Oxford American magazine.
Robertson is a transplant from Fayetteville who has built a successful international landscaping firm and is a bona fide pioneer of environmental advancement and green initiatives to create jobs.
I put on Facebook that I was thinking of erecting yard signs for both with a homemade sign saying “or” placed between.
I voted already. The touch-screen machine wouldn’t let me simultaneously punch for both. I don’t want to say for whom I ended up voting. I’d rather have both of them slightly irked than one of them deeply hurt, not that, in the grand scheme, my endorsement makes much difference.
But Webb’s? Now that’s something else.
And we had a major development in that regard Monday.
Webb issued a statement saying that, while she had previously assured both candidates she would remain neutral, she had come to deem it advisable to endorse Sabin on account of his running a consistently positive campaign.
Naturally, I asked her what Robertson had done that was negative.
She replied unresponsively, merely to the extent that she believed Sabin would be the more effective representative.
I wondered if it had to do with Robertson’s telling me and others that Sabin had suggested to him that he not run this time because he—Sabin—intended to run for lieutenant governor in two years.
For his part, Sabin says he never said any such thing to Robertson, but, for that matter, wonders what is wrong with ambition and why anyone should be expected to foreclose future options.
Sabin knows he’s about to win this race. He does not wish to be drawn into responding needlessly.
I wouldn’t be surprised to see him run for lieutenant governor in two years.
It was left to Robertson, actually, to tell me what had happened between him and Webb.
He said she got the idea he’d been going around saying or implying that she actually favored him despite her avowed neutrality. He said he had done no such thing and that he had asked Webb to no avail to tell him what she’d heard about what he or any of his supporters might have said.
When I went back to Webb about that, she replied by praising a recent column I wrote about the local Episcopalian blessing of the gay marriage executed legally in New York between Jay Barth and Chuck Cliett.
We’re going to miss that kind of brilliant deflection in the General Assembly.
John Brummett is a regular columnist for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and read his blog at brummett.arkansasonline.com.