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Blanche Lincoln Gets Challenge From the Left in U.S. Senate Race

Among the handful of conservative Democrats who have thrown obstacles in the path of health-care reform, Sen. Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas has been stalwart in her opposition to the bill. Today came news that she will face a primary challenge from the left mounted by Lt. Gov. Bill Halter. The excuse given on Lincoln's behalf has been that she's facing a tough 2010 re-election campaign in a very conservative state where people are wary of health-care reform. Yet a Research 2000 survey conducted for the Progressive Change Campaign Committee in October 2009 found that 56 percent of Arkansans favored a public option along the lines of Medicare. I found a 2002 PowerPoint (PDF) from the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement that shows the percentage of Arkansas between the ages of 19-44 at 25 percent -- and that was long before the recession hit. Up until now, members of the Democratic establishment have been mum or dismissive of progressives' cry for a primary challenge to Lincoln, a gauntlet notably thrown down by Jane Hamsher of FireDogLake in an appearance on "The Rachel Maddow Show" last year. But Lincoln has been polling so badly against the Republicans vying for their party's Senate nomination that there may be a quiet sigh of relief in certain smoke-filled rooms. Halter is both populist and popular. The Progressive Change Campaign Committee, together with Democracy for America,, and Daily Kos, are raising campaign cash for Halter, having set a goal to bring in $500,000 in a week. Here's Halter's announcement of his jump into the U.S. Senate race; transcript below: Today I'm announcing that I will run in the Democratic primary for the United States Senate. Washington is broken. It’s working for the special interests, not Arkansas families. Bailing out Wall Street with no strings attached while leaving middle class Arkansas taxpayers with the bill. Protecting insurance company profits instead of protecting patients and lowering health costs. Bickering and engaging in partisan games while unemployment is at a 25-year high. Enough is enough. It's past time to put more Arkansas values in Washington. This is not a decision I make lightly. Serving Arkansas as your Lieutenant Governor for the past three years has been an incredible honor. Shanti and I have carefully considered the implications for our family and we appreciate the encouragement we have received from every corner of the state. In the end, I cannot stand by while jobs are shipped overseas, seniors are pushed to the brink and big banks and insurance companies get bailed out while Arkansans are left to pay for a mess we didn’t create. We know it is possible to stand up for Arkansas values and Arkansas families and get things done -- because we have done it right here in our state. Our toughest fight was to establish the scholarship lottery. Most believed it couldn't be done. But I took a principled stand that Arkansas voters should decide this issue for themselves and Arkansans approved the scholarship program by almost two to one. This year alone we'll help over 20,000 Arkansas families pay for college -- without raising taxes. Working in President Clinton’s budget office, I helped balance the federal budget for the first time in 40 years. As a leader of Social Security, I helped fight off the Republican and Wall Street schemes to privatize it. When the legislature moved to increase their pay in these tough economic times, I gave my increase to charity. Creating good-paying jobs. Providing education and opportunity for all who work hard and play by the rules. Protecting seniors and families. Fiscal responsibility. Standing up to the special interests. These are my principles I’ve stood up for here in Arkansas -- and these are the principles I’ll take to Washington.