Mar 17, 2010

Beth Anne Rankin: Candidate 4th Congressional District

Jim Harris of Bryant is president and CEO of Harris Oil & Timber Company. He covered Arkansas politics for almost 20 years for newspapers including the Texarkana Gazette. He has been the press secretary of former U.S. Rep. Ray Thornton, U.S. Rep. Jay Dickey and Gov. Mike Huckabee. He was the Director of External Communications for the Huckabee for President Campaign and a delegate to the Republican National Convention in 2008. His column appears on Tuesdays in the Benton Courier. Jim was kind enough to contact me and share his article and the picture of Beth Anne filing in Little Rock with TexarkanaGOP. The article below comes to you from Jim and was previously published in the Benton Courier. Thanks Jim for your input!

- July 15, 1996 was a day or great turmoil in Arkansas. Gov. Jim Guy Tucker had been convicted of federal felony charges in connection with the Whitewater investigation.

Tucker resigned and Lt. Gov. Mike Huckabee became the third Republican governor since Reconstruction. Tucker, understandably a little bitter about having to leave office, had his staff take away or destroy everything. The computers were wiped clean so not even a word program was left on hard drives.

As the director of press operations for the new governor I found myself working with others on staff to get the governor’s office up and running with many staff people I had never met.

One of those I was introduced to was Beth Anne Rankin of Magnolia. The first thing I learned about her was that she was Miss Arkansas 1994 and after her reign ended, she was part of Dino Kartsonakis' Christmas Extravaganza in Branson, Missouri.

Stereotyping people rarely works, but I remember thinking, “Why did the governor need this empty-headed beauty queen on his staff? Don’t all beauty queens have big egos?” As it turned out, Beth Anne was far from empty headed. She graduated from Ouachita Baptist University magna cum laude.

She became the governor’s liaison and policy advisor to the National Governors’ Association, the Southern Governors’ Association, the Council of State Governments, Southern Regional Education Board, Congress and the White House.

The Capitol offices are small. Our offices were near each other and sound travels within those marble walls. Often times Beth Anne would be on conference calls with others who worked for those organizations or for other governors. I heard her dealing the people I knew who had MBAs from Harvard or Yale. She never had trouble keeping up with them. Occasionally, I would think they were having trouble keeping up with her.

I also learned she did not have the big ego I expected from a beauty queen.

As a 1989 honor graduate of Magnolia High School, Beth Anne was making motivational speeches to youth groups when she wasn’t putting in long hours in the governor’s office.

Somehow, she managed to find the time to serve on the governing boards of the Arkansas Martin Luther King, Jr. Commission, Arkansas Teen Challenge and the Daisy Gatson Bates Holiday Planning Committee.

Youth mentoring was her platform in the Miss Arkansas contest. It was soon apparent that she not only talked the talk, she also walked the walk.

Beth Anne joined the Arkansas Big Brothers Big Sisters program. At age 13, Keshia Tillmon of Little Rock became Beth Anne’s Little Sister. On many occasions, Beth Anne and Keshia would be in our offices.

Together they set two goals of Keshia. The first was that she would graduate from high school with honors and the other was that she would break the pattern of early pregnancy that was part of her family history.

To accomplish that first part, Beth Anne would pay her Little Sister a small amount of money for every A she earned on her report card. She would spend half of that money then and the other half went into a fund to help Keshia pay for college.

The values Beth Anne instilled in Keshia worked. Keshia graduated with honors and moved to Dallas where she went to college. She later got married.

Beth Anne’s trade mark is her flaming-red long hair. One day she walked into the office with it cut short. She is a member of Locks of Love. She had had her hair cut and given to that organization to make a wig for some girl with cancer or alopecia.

She said somewhere there was a girl that lost her red hair who needed a wig made of real hair that color. Beth Anne made the sacrifice because she didn’t want that girl to have to wear a brown or blonde wig.

After leaving the governor’s office, Beth Anne self produced several CDs of music that she wrote and performed. She went on to start Beth Anne Productions in Magnolia. This business woman found time to serve on the Magnolia Arts Council and the Columbia County Chamber of Commerce.

Beth Anne recently filed as a candidate for Congress in the Fourth District of Arkansas. She has a Republican opponent in the primary. Glenn Gallas of Hot Springs is a leader of the Garland County Tea Party. He is a nice enough guy, but would have been token opposition to the incumbent.

The winner of that primary will go on to face Congressman Mike Ross in the November General Election. Ross was elected to Congress in 2000 when he defeated Congressman Jay Dickey.

Dickey had voted for the impeachment of Bill Clinton and Clinton wanted revenge. When Ross filed to run, Clinton sent James Lee Witt and Rodney Slater to campaign for Ross. It was as if Dickey was running against three opponents instead of one.

Then President Clinton made a last-minute campaign stop for Ross two days before the election and Ross won by a handful of votes. Since then, Ross has had only token opposition.

Ross’s campaign style in 2000 was attack, attack, attack. That won’t work against Beth Anne. Voters would take a dim view of him verbally beating up a Miss Arkansas. Beth Anne has said publicly she won’t be running a negative campaign, but will talk about the positive alternative of sending her to Washington.

Running on his lackluster voting record in Congress isn’t a good option either in this year when voters are in the mood to clean house.

Beth Anne is a much better public speaker than Ross. If she challenges him to a debate, Ross should avoid it at all costs.

Like Ross, Beth Anne is a member of the National Rifle Association. She learned to shoot growing up on the family farm with her brothers. If she challenges Ross to a shooting contest, he should avoid that too. She would likely out gun him.

Ross will likely try to stereotype Beth Anne as an empty-headed beauty queen. That sounds like an exit strategy from Congress for him.