Former U.S. President and Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton told a large crowd at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff on Sunday that anyone who does not vote is casting a vote against their own interests.

Former U.S. President and Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton told a large crowd at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff on Sunday that anyone who does not vote is casting a vote against their own interests.


"If you want student loans to become unaffordable and if you want your health-care to be unaffordable, then all you have to do is not vote," Clinton said. "Because the Republican pollsters have decided that the African-American vote doesn’t come out in non-presidential election years. So they think they can get their candidates in. You need to get out and vote for the men standing up here with me and prove them wrong."


The rally — sponsored by the Arkansas Democratic Party — was one of several held across the state over the weekend to drum up support for the party’s state ticket, including gubernatorial candidate Mike Ross, U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor and U.S. 4th Congressional District candidate James Lee Witt. The candidates traveled with Clinton to Hot Springs, Hope, North Little Rock, Pine Bluff and Forrest City.


Clinton was the last to speak from a stage set up at the east end of the lawn in front of the UAPB bell tower.


"This has been a great weekend," Clinton said. "I went to my 50th high school reunion last night and my granddaughter turned three weeks old Friday. I know that I have more yesterdays than tomorrows in my life. I am here today because I am thinking of you. We all need good paying jobs, a good education and good health care. The rest of it is just background music.


"I want you to vote for these candidates up here with me for a couple of reasons," Clinton said. "First because they are right on the issues, including equal pay for women, education and health care. You also need to vote for them because of the way that they conduct business.


"Mike Ross was my campaign driver back in 1982 when I was running for governor," Clinton said. "He was 21 back then. So we’re both getting pretty old. Mark Pryor is the U.S. Senate poster boy for being fair to everybody."


Clinton said that he bucked the trend when he appointed Witt to be the director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.


"Once I became president, I appointed him to be my director of FEMA," Clinton said. "Up until then, the job of FEMA director was given to big political donors who didn’t make it into the cabinet. Now why in the world would you appoint a disappointee to be in charge of the nation’s disaster response?"


Clinton said that what Arkansas has done with its health-care private option program has received national attention.


"It was Gov. Mike Beebe who worked with the state legislature to provide the private option," Clinton said. "Arkansas is now first in something good for a change. We have had the biggest reduction of people without health insurance in the United States of America. And 100 percent of Arkansas is better off."


On the topic of student loans, Clinton said that Pryor and Ross have voted in the past to lower the cost of student loans.


Other Democratic candidates were also present at the rally, including John Burkhalter, running for lieutenant governor; Susan Inman, running for secretary of state; and Mark Robertson, running for commissioner of state lands.


Reacting to the news of Clinton’s visit when it was announced earlier this week, Fred Brown, a spokesman for the Republican National Committee in Arkansas, said Clinton’s visit to the state does not absolve Pryor from his connection to an unpopular president.


"It’s not President Clinton’s support for Senator Pryor that’s concerning, but rather it’s Senator Pryor’s steadfast support for President Obama," Brown said. "Senator Pryor has loyally rubberstamped President Obama’s agenda 93 percent of the time, not President Clinton’s."