Was Halter Encouraged to Challenge Lincoln?

Following up on a point made by Marc in his post on Arkansas Lt. Gov. Bill Halter's primary challenge to Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), the question remains: was Halter encouraged to challenge Lincoln by any liberal groups in DC (as opposed to the White House, the DNC, or official members of the Democratic establishment)?

Halter's spokesman wouldn't say: "We're going to let the video we put out today and the statement we put out today stand," spokesman Bud Jackson said. "We're not going to take questions like that...

"I will say that he's met with a whole host of people who've been supportive," Jackson said.

Since Lincoln represents a swing vote on health care and the Employee Free Choice Act, progressives--and particularly labor--would be a good place to start.

In checking around, I got some particularly rich non-answers.

"I can't get into any private meetings that did or did not happen. Decisions about Arkansas will be made locally by working families there," said AFL-CIO spokesman Eddie Vale.

"I can guarantee that number of conversations between grassroots groups and Bill Halter pales in comparison to the number of conversations between Blanche Lincoln and out-of-state corporate lobbyists and corporate campaign donors," said Progressive Campaign Change Committee co-founder Adam Green, whose group has pressed Lincoln (along with a host of swing-state senators) to vote for the public option.

The Service Employees International Union, one of the political juggernauts in the labor movement, could not be reached for comment due to a quarterly meeting.

UPDATE:
SEIU did meet with Halter, Political Director John Youngdahl said in December, and pledged to help him retire his 2006 campaign debt (though not necessarily to press him to run against Lincoln).

On the question of meeting with Halter to encourage him to run, SEIU spokeswoman Lori Lodes said, "Working families in Arkansas will be the ones to decide what--and who--will work best for them. What becomes clearer every day is that working families are looking for candidates and elected officials who will do just that, work for them."

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Chris Good is a political reporter for ABC News. He was previously an associate editor at The Atlantic and a reporter for The Hill.

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