The Republican Party of Cleburne County hosted their annual Lincoln Day dinner last Thursday evening at the Community Center. Republicans throughout the 1st Congressional District and across the state were in attendance.

Keynote speaker for the evening was Lt. Governor Tim Griffin. Other speakers included Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, who is running for reelection in 2018, and term-limited Land Commissioner John Thurston. He is running for the office of State Secretary in 2018.

Thurston’s primary opponent, State Representative, Trevor Drown, was also in attendance. State Representatives Josh Miller, District 66, and John Payton, District 64, and State Senator Missy Irvin, District 18, announced that they were running for re-election in 2018. Tommy Land is running for Land Commissioner. Other local Republicans who announced for reelection were County Judge Jerry Holmes, Sheriff Chris Brown, and County Tax Assessor Judy Land.

After the Pledge of Allegiance was led by County Chairperson Julie Feil, the National Anthem was led by the Slate Quartet and Rep. Payton provided the invocation. The catered meal was provided by Arrows.

Attorney Leslie Rutledge kicked off the program telling a story about how she met her husband, Royce. “I was campaigning back in 2014 and was at a Farm Bureau meeting,” began Rutledge. “The GOP had a convention going on at the same time in Little Rock at the Marriott. I walk across the street to attend a fundraiser Susan Hutchinson was hosting for her husband. As I walk in, I see this gentleman, shake his hand, give him a card, say, “I’d like to have your vote,” and go on in.”

“We go upstairs to this tea for a bunch of women,” Rutledge continues. “I tell my friends, ‘Ladies, we’re a bunch of fools. There’s a thousand men across the street and here we are with a bunch of women.’ What I didn’t know was that I had just met my future husband. I always put a plug in for the Farm Bureau because, you single girls, for $35 you get a catfish dinner and a husband.”

When Rutledge first ran for Arkansas Attorney General in 2014, she ran on a platform that was defined by conservative principles based upon the Christian ideals, pro-life, and the defense of the Second Amendment.

“As your Attorney General, I have defended our religious liberty, defended the pro-life statutes that our legislators have passed, protected our Second Amendment rights and gone after con artists and bad businesses,” Rutledge summed up her first term. “I know many of you are tired of getting those pesky phone calls all hours of the day and night. I’m trying to shut those down and have asked the Federal Communications Commission to shut them down. A lot are just annoying, but many victimize the most vulnerable of Arkansans taking their money from them.”

Rutledge’s office has also dealt with an overreaching federal government especially the EPA. Recently, Scott Pruitt, the new Administrator of the EPA, visited Rutledge’s office to discuss rolling back the Waters of the US, which has been detrimental to Arkansas landowners and ranchers.

After a letter was read from Governor Asa Hutchinson, Feil announced that the Family Council Action Committee had released their inaugural legislative report card and named the recipients of their 2017 Statesmen Awards.

“I’m not going to read all of them, but we do have two here tonight – Representatives John Payton and Trevor Drown,” Feil stated.

The Slate Quartet sang “My Country Tis of Thee” before Lt. Governor Tim Griffin got up to speak.

“I have an impossible task according to that agenda. “I’m following those darling girls and then on the other side, next on the agenda, is leaving,” quipped Griffin.

After a GOP pep talk, Griffin hit his stride when he began to talk about tax relief for the citizens of Arkansas.

“When I speak about conservative principles, I focus on the things that will make this state competitive for job growth,” said Griffin. “Because if you’re able bodied and can’t find a job, it is very hard to be a productive member of society. We’ve talked about this a lot over the years. The top priority to grow jobs in this state is not just to simplify the tax code, but relieving us of the burden of the tax code.”

Griffin explained that the Arkansas government has a spending problem. “We tax too much and we spend too much,” Griffin repeated. “In this state, we have to balance the budget and that’s a good thing. That means that revenues, taxes, that come in pretty much equal what we spend. So, here’s the deal, if you reduce taxes, your revenue’s not going to be enough to fund the government you got.”

“We’ve got to change the government we got to the government we ought to have,” Griffin continued. “The state government has to reduce spending to create a surplus. Then you have more revenue than you need and you know what you do with that revenue? You return it to the taxpayer in lower tax rates. People tell me it can’t be done. Nonsense. It just takes a lot of political will.”

Griffin told the audience that the power to get tax relief rested with the people. He admonished them to start calling their state representatives, state senators, the governor and even himself upon which he gave out his cell phone number.

“If you start making phone calls, we listen. It shouldn’t be top down, it should be bottom up from the voters and the grassroots,” said Griffin. “We need a leaner, more efficient, modern government because it’s morally wrong to take people’s tax money if you’re not going to be the best possible steward of it. We want to get competitive with not only Texas and Tennessee, but with South Carolina and every other state. I’d love to have a Boeing plant. That’d be awesome.”

“But make no mistake, the engine of jobs is small and medium sized businesses that are more vulnerable to higher taxes. They’re not able to absorb taxes like the big corporations,” Griffin played to the audience. “Here’s the beauty of it folks. We don’t need to cut services to anybody. We have a state government that was designed during the Cold War, but if you bring it into the era of modern technology and innovation, you can provide better services for less money, take the savings and return it to you as tax relief.”

“I’m not interested in moving from 44 to 43 or 42 or even to get to 39,” wound up Griffin. “I got two kids and one on the way. I want them to live here with Daddy when they grow up. Now, if they decide they don’t want to, that’s their business, but if they leave because they have to, because they can’t find the good paying jobs so they can get somewhere, then I didn’t work hard enough.”