WASHINGTON--The municipal bond market is in danger of losing its leading champion in Congress, Rep. Beryl Anthony.
Although the Arkansas Democrat has won election from his rural district with relative ease every two years since he was first sent to Congress in 1978, he is now in a fight for his political life after failing to win a majority in last Tuesday's Democratic primary.
Rep. Anthony, who won 40% of the vote, now faces a runoff battle on June 9 against Arkansas Secretary of State Bill McCuen who got 30% of the votes and who just edge out insurance salesman Pat Pappas who also won about 30%. If the 60% of the vote garnered by his two opponents can be considered an underdog in the runoff
While known for working hard to represent his district, Rep. Anthony
While known for working hard to represent his district, Rep. Anthony appears to have fallen prey to the spreading anti-incumbency mood among voters that has seen several challengers defeat well-entrenched congressional incumbents in this year's primaries.
His opponents say he has gotten out of touch with his district, in part by spending countless hours as the head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee a couple of years ago.
He also has been hurt by his connection to the House bank scandal, where records show he had 109 overdrafts. Mr. McCuen scored a lot of points with voters in the primary by running campaign ads pointing out that as a young prosecutor Rep. Anthony had a woman sent to jail on Christmas Eve for writing bad checks.
While voters across the country are sending a clear message to incumbents that they want changes in Washington, it is ironic that Rep. Anthony has been doing exactly that by steadily working over the last four years to ease the 1986 curbs on tax-exempt bonds and make it easier for states and localities, including governments in his district, to finance much needed public projects.
Even though his efforts have not won him much political capital at home, he has perserved in trying to raise the level of debate in support of public finance by founding the Anthony Public Finance Commission and the Congressional Infrastructure and Public Finance Caucus, and by introducing legislation in 1990 and 1991 to ease a number of tax law bond curbs.
He scored notable victories when some of his proposals found their way into tax simplification legislation House Ways and Means Chairman Dan Rostenkowski, D-Ill., introduced last year and when he succeeded in getting an amendment that would boost the supply of bank-qualified bonds added to the energy bill that was passed by the House last Wednesday night.
Rep. Anthony is an effective voice for public finance that must not be stilled. Municipal market participants must do whatever they can in the week remaining before the runoff to help convince voters in his district to return him to office so that he can continue his valuable work.