LITTLE ROCK — IF YOU think you’re tired of watching television commercials these political days, or listening to the back-and-forth on your radio (they even interrupt the music!), or if you think you’re going to pull into oncoming traffic the next time you hear “I approved this ad”-as if a candidate would pay for an ad he didn’t approve-or if you’ve decided to vote for the person who’s cluttered your neighborhood with the fewest number of campaign signs this year, then think how it is to have to interview many of those same candidates in person. Yes, this is a shameless appeal forpity from us inky wretches. Let’s just say it’s often hard on the patience. Makes you want to abolish elections altogether and opt for a simple, absolute monarchy.
Ah, but then along comes a candidate like Princella Smith.
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 wholestate from her home in Wynne, Ark. Heck, every congressional district ought to have three or four candidates like her in both primaries, so voters could choose from the best of the best. Every few years, maybe every decade, a candidate for public office comes to the paper and the editorial writers are sorry to see the interview end. (Can you come back tomorrow? Next Thursday?)
The first question, and probably least important, that most folks have for Princella Smith is: How did a young black woman from Wynne, Ark., become a Republican in the first place? Her answer: Give the credit to Win Rockefeller, the late and very much missed lieutenant governor of Arkansas. This young lady got her first taste of politics as an intern in the lieutenant governor’s office during Win Rockefeller’s much-too-short time there, and he made a lasting impression on the young Miss Smith.
“He was such a wonderful human being,” she told us. “I had to know: Why is this guy a Republican?”
After all, she’d always heard that Republicans only talked to, as she put it, old white guys. But here was a real-live Republican, one holding high office in the state, who didn’t just talk to black folks, and who didn’t just care about young people, but showed it every day.
“I started asking him a bunch of questions,” Princella Smith says with a laugh. “I started writing a few of his speeches. I found I was more aligned with the Republicans.”
On almost everything. On Washington’s free-spending ways: “My generation is going to pay off this debt.” On the unions’ attempt to pretty much do away with the secret ballot in elections on whether to unionize workplaces: “I think people have a right to a private ballot.” On charter schools: “The kids tend to do better.”
But no matter what issue she’s addressing informally, cordially and forcefully at the time, what stands out about Princella Smith is that, at the ripe old age of 26, she’s smart beyond her years-and doesn’t always stick to the worn-out party line. She doesn’t have talking points. She just talks to you.
For good example, there’s that hot-potato issue of immigration. The borders need to be secure, she says. But let’s not fool ourselves into thinking it’s politically, or even financially, possible to just round up 12 million people and deport them. Much of the economy would fold, families would be ripped apart, and the illegals would probably be back here soon enough. Yes, our own federales need to enforce immigration at the borders. But the country also needs to figure out what to do with those already here. Like make them learn English, wait their turn to apply for legal entry, and, oh yes, make sure they pay their taxes like everybody else.
Then take Obamacare. Please. Princella Smith says she’s regularly confronted by voters who ask, Are You Going To Repeal It? Again, she laughs. (And she’s got a great, warm laugh.) As a congresswoman, she says, she’d vote to repeal it if it ever came up again, but, let’s face it, it’s not likely to. She’s fundamentally against it, she didn’t support it when it passed, and she wouldn’t support it in the future, but . . . . Obamacare is the law. The president has signed the thing. And as a freshman in Congress, she’s not going to have the power to overrule it. That’s not how the Constitution works.
If you’re lucky enough to get the opportunity, ask her about her raisin’. And about her grandmother’s pre-K school that taught readin’, writin’, multiplication, and Scripture to 4-year-olds. Along with how to make a speech-a skill that came in handy when she won a contest to address the 2004 Republican National Convention. Of course by then she’d already been governor of Girls State, so she’d had considerable experience at public speaking. From kindergarten on up.
So if you vote in the First Congressional District of Arkansas, do yourself and the future of this state a big favor: Pick up a Republican ballot and cast your vote for Princella Smith. Refreshing candidates like her don’t come around all that often.