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Sit-Down with Governor Beebe Part Two

<font size="2">LITTLE ROCK -- </font>In part two of KNWA's sit-down with Governor Beebe, the leader of the Natural State gives advice to all of the candidates seeking to fill his seat
In part two of KNWA's sit-down with Governor Beebe, the leader of the Natural State gives advice to all of the candidates seeking to fill his seat by sharing his political mantra of "under promise and over deliver".

He also talks 2014 and his involvement, his legacy and more.

For part one of our conversation, click HERE.

The transcript for part two is below.


Let's move on to 2014. Obviously last time we talked in November, you were going into this general session. A lot happened in this general session. As you look back on that, and you look to the future of Arkansas with you finishing up your eight years here, there's a lot going on in the state. You see former congressman Mike Ross getting into the race. You see lieutenant governor -- former lieutenant governor Bill Halter in the race on the Democratic side. Do you have any plans at all in getting involved in the primary?

GMB: No. No, it's been my -- it's been my philosophy all along, particularly as the titular head of the party, that I don't get involved in primaries. Obviously, I'll go vote, but I'm not going to publicize who I'm going to vote for. I'm not going to do anything that in any way affects what has to be some degree of impartiality in the primary process by somebody sitting in my position. So, no, I won't get involved in the primary.

JRD: What do you see going into 2014? It seems like we're already seeing people -- candidates -- jumping in left and right, and we're still, what, 18 months out from November?

GMB: And they've been going now for a year. I think people get tired of that. I think people get tired of having to constantly have political talk in terms of the election process. I think people would like to see a shorter election process. So, right now, I don't know that a whole lot of people -- other than the insiders for the respective candidates, the families and the workers and the campaigners -- I don't know that a lot of people are paying a lot of attention. But as it gets closer, it will ramp up.

And with these contested primaries, you'll see a little bit of ads earlier. You'll see money spent earlier than normal. You've seen a lot of out of state money in these things on both sides. I don't think that's healthy, but that's the current mode of operation. I think sometimes that's counterproductive. I think a lot of negative campaigning ends up being counterproductive, too. I think people want to hear what you're going to do, rather than tearing down somebody else all of the time. At least that's my feeling.

JRD: You won't get involved in the primary, but I know that...former congressman Mike Ross has said that he's a "Mike Beebe Democrat". He uses your name a lot. ... How do you feel about that?

GMB: Well, some parts of me really likes it, for obvious reasons. If somebody thinks -- if somebody thinks it enhances their position to do that, then to some extent, that's flattering. As a practical matter, everybody's got to be their own person. I really do think [we've] had an extraordinary six and a half years, so far. Arkansas has climbed the rankings in education [and] climbed the rankings in capital income. [We're] one of only four states that never had a budget shortfall or got in fiscal trouble throughout the worst recession that we've seen. We've expanded economic opportunity with being able to -- during some of the worst times -- to retain, or recruit, or expand businesses. We've made several reforms that saved tax payers money, including the criminal justice system. We've done something they said couldn't be done with regard to the private option. We brought Republicans and Democrats together and [have] shown Washington that you can actually work together with leadership on the both sides of the aisle. I think we've restored a bit of swagger and pride that Arkansans now feel about who they are and where they are -- what their state looks like.

I think on the whole, we've had extraordinary progress in so many different arenas in our state, and I suspect that whether they're Republicans or Democrat, that anybody running for governor will want to continue a lot of those things. You know, the cornerstones, or what I believe are so important, are education and economic development, and if you get those right -- if you can really make those two cornerstones of your administration work in a positive way -- then all of those other issues are easier to solve, whether it be criminal justice, social justice, heath -- all of those other issues are more readily addressed if you have a good education system.  [That's] pre-k until the end of life. That's K-12, that's colleges, universities, workforce, adult education, training -- all of those things. But if you don't have a good opportunity for jobs for your people to go along with that education system, than it doesn't do you much good. So, those are the two things that I've concentrated on the most.

Obviously there have been other issues. We've expanded health care delivery through creating a trauma system. We were the only state that didn't have one, and now we do. So, I suspect whether it's a Republican or Democrat that takes the seat in 2015, they would also want to continue those twin cornerstones of education and economic development.

JRD: Not to round up, but you've been here 8 years, and --

GMB: (Laughing)

JRD: -- this next election, how important is this for Arkansas?

GMB: Well, I think anybody would like to see their programs continue. I think that's just human nature. But if the programs that I have supported are good for the state, and obviously I believe they are, then I think that crosses party lines. I think that transcends partisanship, and, so, it's important, I think, that they follow those same models. Obviously they're going to want to tweak them to suit their own particular philosophy, whoever they maybe, and they should. That's why people elect governors. But I would certainly hope that they'd continue the progress that the state has made.

I never will forget when I was -- my first year in office, things were going pretty good. The economy was rolling, and some pundits -- some columnists -- wrote, "well anybody can be governor in good times." Well, we sure gave them the opportunity to see the other end of that when -- through no fault of Arkansas's -- the world was plunged into the worst recession since the Great Depression. So, if Arkansas can do well in good times and withstand all of the downturns virtually very other state went through in bad times and then can recover in the fashion with the rest of the country without having to start from the deep hole -- which we didn't have to start from because we withstood that recession -- then I would think a continuation of those kind of approaches and those kinds of policies -- conservative budgeting, which I've always been for since I was in the senate -- will stand our state and her people in good stead.

JRD: The 2006 Mike Beebe...what's different about you today?

GMB: I'm calmer, most of the time (chuckling), than I used to be.

I never thought there was a better political job than being in the state senate, because it was part-time. So, you could be involved in public policy, but you had a real job and a real income and a real-life separate and apart from full-time politics. And I enjoyed the AG's job -- the attorney general's job. But I have to tell you, there's probably no better job, politically, then being the governor. You can accomplish more. You can affect more lives positively. If you mess it up, you can affect more negatively, too, so you've got to be careful about that. But I think there's a deeper appreciation on my part now for the executive branch than I had years ago, because I'd seen it, but I'd seen it from afar, instead of up-close and personal. I think with experience and age, all of us get our positions tempered a little bit. I think we tend to be more empathetic -- to listen to people's views -- more than when we were younger and ideologically aligned in some direction. I think pragmatism -- I've always been relatively pragmatic, but I think it grows with experience. So, that's part of the changes.

JRD: If you could give advice to all the candidates in the race right now, obviously looking back at your time running for governor -- hectic is probably one way to say it and a blink of an eye is probably another way to to describe it --

GMB: Yeah.

JRD: -- but what would your advice be?

GMB: My mantra, politically, has been "under promise and over deliver". That's the advice I'd give anybody that's running for any office: governor, mayor or president, or anything else. I don't think we give voters -- sometimes I don't think politicians give voters enough credit. They can see through BS. They can see through promises that are grandiose and that can't be kept. And, I think they punish people who do that. I think you're much better off to under promise -- not make wild assertions about things you're going to do -- and then if you can do things even better than what your promised, then you have delivered something for the voters -- you've done an even better job.

The other way around is catastrophic; making all sorts of grandiose promises of what you're going to do and then falling on your face, or never trying to do it, or -- even worse, cynically -- never believing you were going to do it to begin with. I think that -- I think that turns the voters off. I think they end up punishing you for that. I think part of the reason my popularity's remained high is that that's the model I followed when I was running and the model I followed since I've been here. And, I think people actually reward you for it. I think they're sick of crazy, weird, wild promises.

JRD: When you look back at the session, what were the highlights for you, and what were some of the things you wish had been done differently?

GMB: Obviously I wish any veto I issued hadn't been overridden.

I think, without regard to any specific issue -- although several issues impact on this, I think the highlight for me in this session is that, in a [virtually] 50/50, Republican/Democrat [legislature] -- it was 51/49 in the house; it was 21/14 in the senate...with people making all sorts of weird predictions about we're going to be gridlocked like Washington, it's going to look overly partisan like Washington -- that on the big issues, on things where people had to sit down and reason, that we actually performed in a fashion -- the legislature actually performed in a fashion, and I give them credit [on] both sides of aisle -- [that] could be a good role model for folks in DC.

If those folks in Washington could sit down and work together like some of the folks in the general assembly on both sides of the aisle worked together, this country would be in a lot better shape. You know, I've had successful sessions since I've been governor, and, so, there was a lot of speculation to "well, he's not going to have a successful session", because I can't get anything done, and "all they're going to do is gridlock just like DC now that all the dynamics have changed." And while there were some indications of it starting that way, by the time we were halfway through and then towards the end, we didn't see that at all. We saw another successful session, another...series of accomplishments, whether it was our first amendment 82 issue with Big River Still, or whether it's the private option, or whether it's a budget.

The press asked me Friday, when the revenue stabilization came out, said, "The revenue stabilization looks just like what you proposed in November." "What do you have you say about that?" I said, "Is that really a question?" (Laughing). I mean, it was a conservative budget, but a good budget, and it did exactly what we suggested that they should do. It was a huge success for bipartisan cooperation... I think that's the major highlight out of this session, more so than any individual accomplishment. More so than the private option, more so than the budget, more so than anything else; it's the lesson of working together.

JRD: Thanks so much, governor.

GMB: You bet. You bet.
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