LITTLE ROCK — Two former congressmen, a lawyer and a constable are competing to succeed Gov. Mike Beebe, who cannot seek a third term because of Arkansas’ term-limits law.

LITTLE ROCK — Two former congressmen, a lawyer and a constable are competing to succeed Gov. Mike Beebe, who cannot seek a third term because of Arkansas’ term-limits law.


Republican Asa Hutchinson, 63, of Rogers is a partner at Asa Hutchinson Law Group and CEO of Hutchinson Group, a consulting firm. He formerly served as U.S. attorney for the Western District of Arkansas in Fort Smith, 3rd District congressman, administrator of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and undersecretary for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. He ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate in 1986, attorney general in 1990 and governor in 2006. He and his wife, Susan, have four children.


Democrat Mike Ross, 53, of Little Rock is a former Nevada Quorum Court member, state senator, 4th District congressman, pharmacy owner and officer and senior vice president at Southwest Power Pool. He and his wife, Holly, have two children.


Green Party candidate Joshua Drake, 45, of Hot Springs owns the Drake & Street law firm in Hot Springs. He ran unsuccessfully for the 4th District congressional seat in 2006, 2008 and 2010. He has three children.


Libertarian Party nominee Frank Gilbert, 64, of Tull is constable of Dekalb Township in Grant County and minister of Universal Life Church. He formerly served as Tull mayor and Grant County coroner. He ran unsuccessfully for the state Senate in 2012. He and his wife, Teresa, have three children.


Candidates were asked three questions and allowed up to 150 words for each answer. Each responded via email.


1. What do you see as the No. 1 issue facing the state, and how would you address it?


Drake: Our biggest challenge is the rush to put short-term profits ahead of our people. Whether it’s tax cuts for the super-wealthy, repeal of environmental protections, state handouts to big corporations, failure to adopt a living minimum wage, or the fanatical pursuit of "new jobs" at the expense of all else, the politicians of this state have lost focus on the people and our future. Fracking jobs now are not worth poisoned ground water for our grandchildren. Tax cuts on the wealthy do nothing to grow the economy for the future. The rush to arm every citizen with a gun does nothing to promote our necessity to learn to live in peace with our fellow citizen. Denying health care to our minimum-wage-earning citizens and their children prevents adequate growth in our society and impedes learning for our children. I would always seek to put people first to make our state stronger.


Gilbert: Jobs and the economy, the two are inextricably linked. The best way to increase jobs in Arkansas is to improve the economic environment of the state. Two issues that I am campaigning for would give us an immediate boost for the economy and create more and better jobs. First, eliminate the income tax in Arkansas. Every working Arkansan would receive an immediate raise and entrepreneurs would know that we are serious about the business climate. Second, promptly end over regulation of the economy. Every board or commission that regulates industry and business should be eliminated if it is not directly protecting the health and safety of citizens. Every agency in the state should justify their regulatory efforts in the same way or end them entirely. Those two steps would do much to improve the economy and add jobs.


Hutchinson: The No. 1 issue is the need to create stronger economic growth and better paying jobs in Arkansas. That is why I am running as the "jobs governor" with a six-point plan for job creation that will work for this state. It includes reducing our state income tax rate starting with the middle-income folks so we can be competitive with our surrounding states; enhancing and reforming career education in our two-year colleges and high schools in order to train our young people with job skills that will lead to a good paying job; offering computer science in every high school in Arkansas; and reducing the regulatory burden on Arkansas businesses.


Ross: Our biggest challenge is that middle-class families are still struggling to get by, which is why my campaign is focused on strengthening the middle class. We’ll do this by increasing educational opportunities, including more access to pre-k, making college more affordable and emphasizing career tech. We’ll cut taxes for nearly every working family and small business, reduce regulations and make it easier to start and grow your own business. My "Seniors Bill of Rights" and "Veterans Matter Plan" will give our seniors and veterans the support they have earned. My "Tougher, Smarter Crime Plan" will make our communities safer and put a stop to domestic violence and child abuse. And, I’ll strengthen our equal pay laws so that women earn equal pay for equal work. As governor, I’ll put jobs first and work in a bipartisan way to create more and better-paying jobs and grow Arkansas’ middle class.


2. What makes you the best candidate for the office?


Drake: I’m the only candidate that believes in: universal health care; a minimum wage of $10/hour; stronger environmental regulations to protect our air and water from pollution; quickly ending our dependence on fossil fuels and converting to renewable energy sources such as wind, solar and hydro power; a woman’s right to reproductive freedom as guaranteed by the Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade; more progressive taxation on the wealthy; reasonable gun laws to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill and I oppose "stand your ground" and "open carry" as being bad for our citizens and bad for attracting business from out of state. I’m not supported by lobbyist or big business money, therefore I’m only interested in serving the people of this state. I want my grandkids to be proud of the state we leave them and not be ashamed of how we failed to protect their future.


Gilbert: I believe I am the best candidate for governor because I can work with all parties to get Arkansas moving toward a better future. Both the old parties are mired in a partisan struggle that has harmed the state. They seek to advance their party or their own careers instead of the interests of the state of Arkansas. There are new voices and new ways of doing things that are being ignored. I will open the office of governor to everyone, not just the wealthy, influential and politically connected. I am not a part of the "good old boy" networks that have run Arkansas for generations. I’m not a Republican, not a Democrat and not for sale. I will advance a legislative agenda that promotes economic growth and reduced dependence on government. I will conduct the governor’s duties impartially and with respect for all citizens.


Hutchinson: I know and love this state. I have both legislative experience but also executive experience. I have served two presidents in tough jobs and my experience in both government and the private sector will make a difference in job creation. I have run small businesses and I have experience with multimillion-dollar global companies. Also, I have a conservative view of government. I am pro-life; pro the Second Amendment; and I want to grow the private sector more than government. This is the right direction for Arkansas.


Ross: Unlike my opponents, I have a proven history of bringing people together to put good public policy over partisan politics. In Congress, National Journal consistently rated me as one of the most independent members of Congress, and I brought both parties together to fight for a balanced budget amendment, reinstate pay-as-you-go laws and stop the over-reaching EPA. I am a former small-business owner and know you can’t spend more than you take in. I am also the only candidate with state government experience, and for 10 years in the state Senate I worked side-by-side with Gov. Beebe to balance our state’s budget. I have always called Arkansas home, and I believe we are too small of a state to bring Washington’s deadlock and dysfunction to Arkansas. As governor, I will bring both parties together to strengthen education, cut taxes and create more and better-paying jobs.


3. How would your approach to governing be similar to/different from that of Gov. Mike Beebe?


Drake: I would continue the Beebe legacy by further reducing the sales tax on food which hurts our lowest income people the most. Like Beebe I would seek to work with all sides regardless of political party but I would be outspoken when the legislature was attempting to pass unconstitutional legislation that would cost the taxpayers of this state needlessly when the laws are later struck down by the courts. I would adequately fund education as our key to future job growth rather than give government handouts to big business. I would pay our teachers better including having the state pay almost all of their healthcare costs. I would expect those earning over $150,000 to pay more in taxes and I would propose a sales tax for stock transactions that take place in Arkansas. I would open up the political process to more candidates and political parties including instant runoff voting.


Gilbert: It has been a pleasure to watch Gov. Beebe’s good-natured approach to his job. As governor, I will certainly try to emulate his personal bearing and manners. However, there is little in his job performance that I would carry forward as governor. It is time for the governor of Arkansas to be honest with the voters, taxpayers and citizens of the state. Our supposedly balanced budget does not accurately reflect billions of dollars in unfunded liabilities. Worse, most of the money we spend as a state comes from the federal government. Those folks haven’t balanced a budget since Bill Clinton was president and have amassed trillions of dollars in debt. I wish Gov. Beebe had recognized that and acted accordingly. The next governor will not have the luxury of ignoring the facts.


Hutchinson: Gov. Beebe is highly popular and has kept our state in sound financial position compared to other states that have struggled through the recession. I will be similar in that I will have a conservative approach to managing the budget issues of state government; but I will be different. I will apply my experience in law enforcement to the crime challenge that we face; I will work to reform a welfare program in Arkansas that is too wasteful; and I will change a cumbersome and difficult regulatory climate in Arkansas to one that is more responsive to business and economic growth.


Ross: Gov. Beebe remains the most popular governor in America because of his cautious, fiscally responsible and bipartisan approach to growing the middle class — an approach Congressman Hutchinson attacked in 2006 when he ran against him. I want to build on the foundations Gov. Beebe has built in education, tax relief and job creation and follow his fiscally responsible and bipartisan approach to governing. My opponent, Congressman Hutchinson, wants to throw that model out the window and push his fiscally irresponsible tax plan that threatens to unravel our state budget and undo all the progress Gov. Beebe has made, which is exactly why Gov. Beebe is endorsing my campaign for governor. As governor, I will bring people together and work day and night to be this state’s biggest economic ambassador by rolling out the welcome mat and telling the world that Arkansas is open for business.