Former President Bill Clinton on Friday urged voters in his home state to send Sen. Blanche Lincoln back to Washington for another term, warning them to not let their anger guide their choice in next month's Democratic runoff.
Clinton, who remains beloved in the state where he served as governor for 12 years, urged voters to look at Lincoln's years in the Senate and her work as the chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee. Lincoln, considered one of the most vulnerable incumbents in Washington, is fighting to keep her job in the June 8 Democratic runoff against Lt. Gov. Bill Halter.
"If you want somebody to channel your anger, don't vote for her," Clinton said at a rally at Philander Smith College, a historically black school located near downtown Little Rock. "If you want somebody to get up and go to work and change your life for the better, you should vote for her."
Clinton didn't name Halter, who served as deputy commissioner of the Social Security Administration during his presidency, during his 20-minute speech. Instead he focused his attention on labor unions that have been backing Halter's bid.
"Her opponent is not her opponent," Clinton said. "Her opponents are the people trying to make her this poster child."
Labor unions such as the AFL-CIO and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees have embraced Halter's bid, saying they've grown frustrated with Lincoln on issues such as health care and key union organizing legislation.
Unions backing Halter spent more than $5 million on the race before the May 18 primary, and labor leaders privately say they're ready to spend another $5 million during the runoff campaign. Clinton seized on statements union officials have made that they want to show their independence from the Democratic Party with the effort.
"In other words, this is about using you and manipulating your votes to terrify members of Congress from other states," Clinton said. "If you want to be used that way, have at it."
Lincoln has faced anger from both the right and the left in her re-election bid. Republicans have targeted her for supporting the health care overhaul, while liberal groups have criticized her for opposing a government-run insurance option as part of the legislation.
Lincoln had initially promoted herself as independent of the national Democratic Party and the Obama administration, but since the May 18 primary has embraced the left with ads promoting her support of the health overhaul.
Halter told supporters earlier Friday that he has momentum on his side in his effort to unseat Lincoln. The winner of the June 8 primary will face Republican Congressman John Boozman in the general election.
"They've got special interest money, they've got some of the establishment, but what this campaign has is you," Halter told supporters Friday outside his North Little Rock campaign headquarters.
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