GOP gubernatorial candidates face off in Tea Party forum in Conway

CONWAY (KATV) - Both republican candidates vying for the governor's office faced off in a forum on Monday night. The forum ran the gamut, covering topics from tax reform to education, and the setup for the forum made for some interesting situations.

The forum was an opportunity for a meet and greet with the two GOP candidates running for governor.

Although former Congressman Asa Hutchinson is considered the front runner for the May primary, challenger businessman Curtis Coleman appeared to be a favorite at the Tea Party sponsored event. But the people in attendance were there to listen and better understand what each candidate stands for.

One of the big questions posed to the candidates: "What does being a conservative mean to you?"

"Someone who believes that government should be as non-invasive and non-encroaching and as unessential as possible in your life," responded Coleman.

Hutchinson referenced the Faulkner County Tea Party sign behind him when he answered the same question.

"I think there's a pretty good definition right here," said Hutchinson. "Promotes constitutional government and fiscal responsibility."

How to be fiscally responsible was one way the two differed, both trying to explain how their complex tax plans work.

The setup for the forum was interesting - including several rapid fire questions to be answered with a simple, "yes or no." Rapid fire questions were something Coleman appeared able to do, but apparently not as easy for Hutchinson.

Moderator: "Is Arkansas government effectively reducing the number of persons in poverty? Mr. Coleman?"

Coleman: "No."

Moderator: "Mr. Hutchinson?"

Hutchinson: "No"

Moderator: "Just one word, Mr. Hutchinson."

But the candidates were also offered the opportunity several times to ask back and forth questions to each other. Hutchison seemed much more prepared for that opportunity, with Coleman saying many times he didn't have questions for Hutchinson.

One question Hutchinson asked to Coleman made it seem as if Hutchison is very certain he is the front runner in the race.

Hutchinson: "If I prevail, Curtis, will you be supporting me as the Republican nominee?"

Coleman: "Of course I will."

Still a little more than a month remains until the Arkansas primary. Democrats Mike Ross and Lynette Bryant don't have set plans to face off in their own forum yet.

There is also a Libertarian candidate and Green Party candidate running for the governor's office as well. J. Joshua Drake is the candidate running on the Green Party ticket, while the Libertarian candidate is Frank Gilbert.

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