Joe Birch's candidate profile: Blanche Lincoln

Sen. Blanche Lincoln
Sen. Blanche Lincoln

By Joe Birch - bio | email

MARKED TREE, AR (WMC-TV) - A woman who has made Arkansas history faces a fight for political survival this election year.

Two-term Senator Blanche Lincoln is the first Arkansan and first woman to chair the powerful U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee.   But it's a tough year to be a Democrat, even of the Blue Dog, fiscally conservative breed.

Lincoln and Governor Mike Beebe came to Marked Tree to celebrate political gold this election season: new jobs.

Recently, Awesome Cleaning Products agreed to bring 90 to 100 jobs to Marked Tree, but only after Lincoln went to work on funding for a rail spur to the plant:

"I did contact EDA and learned that the regional officials were more than willing to work with Marked Tree to make a rail spur a reality," she said.

"Like always, she delivered.," Beebe said. "She's always delivered. She's been delivering a long time and Blanche we're grateful to you for all you do for the state of Arkansas."

"This rail and this factory is going to be a major improvement to Marked Tree," city resident Jim Gillis added.

Businesses all over Arkansas could say the same thing about their senior Senator. So why is Blanche Lincoln so far down in the polls?

"There are polar extremes up there," Lincoln said of Washington. "You've got the Democrats in their foxhole and the Republicans in their foxhole and very few people dare to come out on that battlefield to look for that common ground that really solves our problems. That's what I do. I'm on that battlefield.">

Lincoln has the scars to prove it. Unions spent millions trying to unseat her this summer, backing Lt. Governor Bill Halter in a bitter primary fight. Lincoln prevailed, but voted for President Obama's health care reform and economic stimulus that have Arkansans anxious.

"I am a daughter of the Delta," she said. "I grew up in east Arkansas in a 7th generation Arkansas farm family."

Lincoln told the Blytheville Chamber of Commerce her clout chairing the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry means more work for Arkansans:

"The Senate Committee on Agriculture is a pipeline for jobs for our state," she said.

Lincoln is a political prodigy. She was elected to East Arkansas first Congressional District seat in 1992, the year fellow Arkansan Bill Clinton won the Presidency.

Lincoln, who helped start the Blue Dog Democrats moved up to the Senate in 1998.  At just 38-years-old, she was the youngest woman ever to be elected senator. Now, at 50, she's scrambling for survival.

"It's the fight of my life," she said.  "I think, quite frankly, when people look at my record, they realize I'm one of the most independent voices in Washington. I stand up to the President. I stand up to my party. I stand up to the other side if it's not good for Arkansas."

In a year dominated by the Tea Party politics and a sputtering economy, Lincoln says it's hard to be a moderate.

"I can tell you first hand, there are no guarantees, even if your name is Lincoln," she said.

We'll profile Senator Lincoln's Republican opponent, Arkansas Congressman John Boozman, tomorrow night on Action News 5 at 6pm.

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