Two Black Women Vie to Diversify Arkansas
Bill Clinton's home state has never sent an African American to Congress. This year a Republican and a Democrat aim to change that.
She didn't. Instead she got a loan, worked her way through Southern Arkansas University in Magnolia and became a schoolteacher. In 2001 Elliott became a state legislator. Some critics have said that Elliott -- tall and willowy, with cropped hair that is barely a quarter of an inch long -- has a modern image that, combined with her progressive stances, can't win against a Republican in the November general election.
"I'm not naive about that," Elliott says. "But that's what you hear with the chattering of the leadership of the Democratic Party and Republicans. Average people have a different attitude."
While they don't agree on many issues, Smith says that she, too, senses change on the ground. "What I've seen are tons of older whites saying that it is so refreshing that a young person, a minority, is willing to take a stand for the party," Smith says. "I think people are getting beyond the fact that you're black."
Smith stays up late at night, thinking about the race. If she can pull off a primary win on Tuesday against Crawford, she will make history. Then she starts focusing on November.
Over the last two months, Smith has trekked across the 26 counties that make up the enormous 1st District. Her take: People want to talk about the issues and not race.
"They want to know where I stand on the conservative spectrum," she says. "They want to know where I stand on immigration and abortion. It's more about what's affecting their lives."
Smith garnered the endorsement of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, the state's largest newspaper, last weekend. "Every congressional district should have a candidate who's this outgoing, smart and just plain eager to get to work on your behalf -- and with enough enthusiasm to light up the whole state from her home in Wynne, Ark.," the editorial endorsement said. "She doesn't have talking points. She just talks to you."