Rodney Govens believes our problems can be fixed: Infrastructure, immigration, school cybersecurity [Podcast Episode 2, blog version]

STEVE GRAPPE: Welcome back for our podcast with the Congressional candidate in the eastern part of Arkansas. My name is Steve Grappe. I am the field director for Rodney, getting to the U.S Congress in Washington and I’m also on the executive committee for the Democratic Party of Arkansas. I’m the chair of the Rural Caucus of Arkansas, and my current job is Stand Up Arkansas.

We’re here today to talk to Rodney Govens and find out what’s going on his campaign and how we’re going to get him elected. First, our communications director, Kristal Kuykendall. Tell us a little bit about yourself and maybe a little about your background so the listeners know who’s having this conversation with Rodney, and then we’ll jump right in.

KRISTAL KUYKENDALL: Sure. Hey everybody. I grew up in Sherwood, North Little Rock, and I worked in newspapers for about 27 years including as the Walmart reporter at the Democrat-Gazette about 22 years ago, and then worked in running small local papers and as a community journalist. I’m happily now doing freelance marketing-communications consulting and was thrilled to learn about Rodney’s campaign and come on board. I actually went to junior high and high school with Steve. So we’ve known each other for a long time and it’s been fun working together and trying to do something purposeful.

STEVE: Glad to have you, Kristal. I will put a pitch out. Kristal has a company called Rural Reach Marketing. Make sure if you need any kind of communication marketing needs in the political sphere, look Kristal up.

I have so many questions. My favorite thing you just said was that you were the Walmart reporter. So does that mean that you are the one that was responsible for all those cool people of Walmart pictures we see all over social?

KRISTAL: No, I think the people who do the people of Walmart website, they definitely (A)  have a really good sense of humor. And (B) I’m pretty sure they’re not affiliated with any newspaper. So because Walmart is the biggest retailer in the world and it is headquartered in Arkansas, the statewide newspaper, of course, has a reporter dedicated to covering Walmart and all the major companies, the international companies that are headquartered in Arkansas.

There are a ton of people around Northwest Arkansas who own Walmart stock and have for generations now, and as a journalist, it’s the biggest beat for the state of Arkansas because you have people from all over the world who are reading your stories. Before that, I was a copy editor and business editor and sports copy editor at a Pulitzer Prize-winning paper in Kentucky.

STEVE: Let’s move over to Rodney, who is our candidate, and there are gonna be a lot of people that might be tuning in first time ever seeing you or hearing about you. So before we get too deep into discussion, can you just tell us about yourself, what got you into the campaign? What makes you want to represent the people of Arkansas?

RODNEY GOVENS: Before I even get to myself, like Kristal’s selling herself short, we’re talking an award-winning journalist, right? We’re talking about somebody who’s won awards, doing what she’s doing. To own your craft and be honored, I think we need to celebrate that a little bit more. Best decision I ever made getting Kristal involved in the campaign.

RODNEY: For me, being a husband, being a veteran, being a father being a CASA, every single day, I see the pitfalls of some of the programs that are supposed to be helping people. And when you defund the programs and they go away, you see the immediate ramifications. And I’m tired of that. I know most of America’s tired of that. And it’s one of those things where I go back to John Lewis, right? If you see something, say something. Make good trouble.

And this is definitely our opportunity to make good trouble across the First Congressional District in Arkansas, where we can actually take care of all people and not just the rich, fat cats and corporate America that are dominating and owning everything. It’s time to bring that power back to the people. So that’s why I’m running.

STEVE: For those out there that don’t understand what being a CASA is, can you kinda explain what that is? Why it’s important to you and maybe how they could get involved in that process.

RODNEY: Absolutely. So it’s the best job I never got paid for. Court Appointed Special Advocates: you get to represent the child’s best interest. Most of these children are in foster care, and you visit with the child, you go and pull any kind of records, health records, medical records. Behavioral records from schools, right? You can literally pop up at a facility or at a foster home just to check in and see how things are going. And that’s to empower you to make sure that you are representing the child’s best interest.

You submit court reports ‘cause the judge is not gonna know. The attorney ad litem has too many cases, she’s not gonna know, right? But at the end of the day, that child is entitled to having that attorney ad litem represent their best interest. And that’s where you come in as a CASA. It’s the greatest reward ever.

Being a former foster kid, I wish I would’ve had an advocate. Because the advocates don’t change. Like the caseworkers, I think we all know worst kept secret in the world is Department of Human Services employment record right now, it’s hard to keep those people in those roles. The good ones get burned out and leave, right? So you’ve got a huge turnover over there. So everybody along the way changes except the CASA

STEVE: I didn’t understand what CASA was before I got to know you and golly. Now I wanna be a CASA. My daughter came out of the foster care system and I’ve seen how children, if you don’t have advocates and you don’t have people working on a daily basis for them, they can get lost in the system.

And even if they’re not lost in the system. It’s tough for a foster kid to grow up. They have a different outlook than kids that are brought up in a one or two family household. And that idea of belonging and being good enough to be a part of society, I’m working with through that kind of stuff with my daughter and I know that when they get into the court system and they just have an attorney that they meet once or twice a month. If they do that, you’re the guy that stands right next to ’em that says, this is what this person needs. Do you mind sharing maybe a story so people realize just what you’re doing as an advocate

RODNEY: Sure. A few years back I had a teenager on juvenile probation. When I got him, his juvenile probation court case was being transferred over to the county that I covered. So I sat down with him, talked to him. He was a gang banger. He didn’t really look past his nose to see his future. He just wanted instant gratification, and I broke down the system to him and explained things to him. And of course, being a teenager, this is about when he was 15 years old, it fell on deaf ears. Most of us as teenagers, a lot of the advice that our elders gave us fell on deaf ears.

RODNEY: But he ended up getting in some serious trouble. So when he got out of the Department of Youth Services after he did his time — completely different kid. And I visited with him at least once every two weeks while he was incarcerated there because I wanted him to understand, “You fell down. You didn’t listen. I’m not gonna hammer you on that ’cause we see the consequences. You didn’t pay attention, you weren’t careful. All that aside you’re still worthy of love. I still love you. You just made a couple of mistakes. You’re paying you debt. So let’s move on.”

RODNEY: And we set him up for success. But one of the physical things that we discovered later on was that when he was 13, he got a gang tattoo on his forearm. This kid was a talented basketball player. He’s 16 years old, he’s getting invites to go on the AAU circuit. One of the AAU tournaments that he was looking at playing in on his team was in North Little Rock where rival gang members live and they frequent those basketball games.

RODNEY: Now it’s a safety issue. We gotta get that tattoo covered up. Most people want to attack it with makeup. And that’s what the Department of Human Service has tried to recommend. We can’t do that. We’re playing basketball. It gets sweaty. What happens when we sweat that makeup off? And it’s not just a danger to the child. Not only are we endangering his life by putting him in that situation, we’re also endangering the lives of the foster parents that are very active in his life.

RODNEY: So what do we need to do? And without hesitation, judge ordered a tattoo cover-up paid for by the Department of Human Services, which I’m sure that central office and DHS was not very appreciative of when they got that court order coming across their desk. But sixteen-year-old kid, he needs a tattoo cover-up. I don’t want to get kids tattoos. That’s not the goal. But we need to do what’s right and what’s safe and make sure that everybody can pursue life, liberty, and happiness.

KRISTAL: I think when people think about CASA advocacy or even just advocating in any way for kids, they don’t understand the detail that in includes. I can totally imagine an activist seeing that expenditure on a DHS report and raising hell, “Why are we paying for a tattoo??” You know what I mean? And I can see that getting taken out of context and it’s never really occurred to me — even having written about this stuff as a journalist — the granular level of involvement and the advice that you give can be something that detailed and that seems little, but actually has really far-reaching consequences.

KRISTAL: Thank you for sharing that story and thank you for what you do. For all the kids that you’ve helped I think every teenager should have an advocate, but especially obviously the ones who have not been getting the care and support that they need from their biological family.

STEVE: We’re hoping that parents are the advocates, but we know that doesn’t happen in every situation, less often than we want it to be. How does what you do with CASA mixed with being a veteran and working in the rural broadband area, how does that shape what you want to do once you’re elected to Congress, how does that shape your vision for what you wanna do with this office?

RODNEY: When I was coming up, I didn’t get to know my father, my biological father that long, right? Maybe seven or eight months of my life. But there was something that he used to teach me and hammer in my head all the time.When you take care of the foundation, you can build a mansion, you can build a small house, you can build whatever you want, as long as the foundation is solid and the foundation for me is really just a couple of things, number one, our children. Our children are the biggest piece of our foundation because they’re gonna keep this life going, right?

RODNEY: We’re gonna hand them over whatever we’re leaving and they gotta deal with that. So we need to make sure that they have it better than we had it. And that way, when they become adults, they can make sure that their kids have it better than they have. it’s a generational thing, right? But it’s gotta start somewhere. And they’re the biggest part of the foundation. Now, we need to make sure that we have the resources available so that they’re successful in their endeavors. And we don’t have that, we don’t have a lot of the infrastructure available. And I’ll give you a quick example.

RODNEY: Last week we were in Helena-West Helena doing a water drive. The people in Helena-West Helena were without potable drinking water for almost a week and a half at that point. And it’s still gonna be a few weeks before they get potable drinking water. They got a boil order right now for just the half the city that’s back on, but even though they’re back on and the city water is flowing, it’s not good. Don’t drink it straight out of the tap. You gotta boil it first. We have that issue going on today in 2024. Shouts out to the Walmart Foundation really came through. The Walmart Foundation sent down some shower stalls, but that’s not good enough because if you’ve never known how dehumanizing it is. I challenge anybody to walk down to a shower stall and take a shower in a public setting. That’s what we did in the military – it’s dehumanizing. And we’re doing this to children and women and Working-class people that pay their bills. And Helena-West Helena; that’s wrong.

RODNEY: Giving somebody the crumbs —

KRISTAL: And expecting that to be enough —

RODNEY: Doesn’t excuse the failure of infrastructure. That’s a failure. So we’ve gotta make sure that our kids that have the Maslow’s hierarchy of needs available to ’em. And then don’t even get me started on the rural broadband. Steve, when I was working at Swift fiber, my last telecom job, the Arkansas Rural Connect Fund comes out, the federal money’s pouring in, right?

RODNEY: Because we want to get rural America connected. The process to make that happen was really simple. There’s a pot of money. The state controls who gets the money. Companies can partner with local municipalities, mayors, and county judges, and go and get that money and implement broadband in these communities.

RODNEY: The problem is most of the companies, they weren’t talking to Judge Buddy down there in Lincoln County. They weren’t trying to talk to Mayor Carolyn down there in Wilmot. They didn’t even reach out to Tamika Butler, the mayor of Eudora. I did, and the reason I did is because those are the rural communities that need broadband internet. They don’t need more broadband internet in Searcy, Arkansas, they have plenty. They don’t need broadband internet in Beebe, Arkansas, they got a few providers, right? They need it around Eudora, they needed it down there in Wilmot, where the telephone company’s still operating on twisted pair, and the best speeds you could get was 2.4 megabit download and less than 500 kilobit upload.

RODNEY: You can’t do anything with that. Those are the foundational pieces, right? When I’m Amazon or when I’m Walmart and I need to drop in a fulfillment center, I need to drop in a trucking stop, some logistical advantage facility , I need three things. I need to be able to call people, so I gotta have telephone, I gotta have power, right? And then I need broadband, especially Amazon, because a lot of their stuff is automated and they use a lot of machine learning.

RODNEY: Now, I can’t do this with 50 megabit. 50 megabit’s not gonna get you an Amazon fulfillment center. 50 megabit. They’ll laugh you outta the table. But 100 megabit, 1 gigabit, 10 gigabits. You couldn’t get that before in Wilmot. Before Swift Fiber went down there and I was happy that we were able to do that.

RODNEY: Those are the foundational pieces that I’ve identified, and unfortunately there’s not enough Fiber around the state of Arkansas, but I think from a congressional perspective, we could fix that.

KRISTAL: While we’re talking about Information technology and internet, I would like to talk about cybersecurity and specifically cybersecurity as it impacts critical infrastructure of our schools, local government offices, solid waste authorities, water utilities. Most of our local school districts, as we know, are super tight on money, especially here in Arkansas and, in short, there is no serious assistance other than advice. Lots of PDFs.

KRISTAL: I think Tom Cotton recently said, “Hey, let’s study cybersecurity.” We don’t need to study cybersecurity. The studies are done. The studies are done by experts, every single week, there are people who work in cybersecurity for companies or nonprofits, and they’re raising the alarm saying ‘School districts are getting attacked and their data is getting stolen.’ Little kids’ identities are getting stolen and used by bad actors before they’re even 15 years old, and there’s absolutely nothing that parents can do about it.

KRISTAL: And honestly, there’s nothing school districts can do about it. So I guess my question for you is, do you think that Congress should take schools public education as part of quote critical infrastructure and provide a comprehensive, overarching help, whether that’s government actually operates it or they just give money to the best bid or whatever that looks like, but actual help to keep their systems secure and keep hackers out?

RODNEY: So first and foremost: Yes. The government’s gotta get involved. Now, the level of involvement I have my own opinion on that, and here’s why. I don’t want government in my stuff, right? Whether I’m an individual, whether I’m a local community, whether I’m a city municipality, I don’t want government in my stuff like federal government, you stay out of it.

KRISTAL: They’re clearly not very good at protecting their own systems. ’cause every week we hear about yeah, but this is a problem. It’s a problem because the government is either doing a bad job at protecting their own, or they’re just giving advice to these small local agencies that don’t have any funding to, it’s almost like an unfunded mandate.

RODNEY: We cannot ask a school district that’s struggling with funding already based off of their millages, based off of their assessments, right? I’m not gonna ask a school to all of a sudden find a couple of million dollars and go focus on cybersecurity because they’re not a business. When I was at Time Warner Cable I used to have this conversation with HR all the time, why do I have to take this class about labor relations? Why do I have to take this class about employment sensitivity, right? I’m ex-Army man, just do your job. But no, I had to take those classes and those investments and Time Warner Cable gave me a really good answer, they said, because it’s worth it. That’s why. So when you make investments, because it’s worth it to you as a company and one of your biggest investments is training your entire employment staff on social engineering, phishing, and cybersecurity.

RODNEY: If it’s that important for a business because they don’t wanna lose money, I think it’s more important for a school district, because you don’t wanna lose student data. You don’t wanna lose parent data either. So I think from the federal government, we need to go ahead and not supplement, not subsidize, but fund, fund an entire cyber security program for every single school district in this country and let the school district decide how they’re gonna implement it.

RODNEY: The school district may want to go with a managed services company like Fusion Connect, right? They might want to go the route of actually having someone on staff who is a cybersecurity expert certified understands the CCNA aspects of things in addition to the security plus aspects of things; they may want to go that route. But I think it should be left up to them.

RODNEY: And then there’s a level of accountability that I always wanna remind people of. I’m not gonna sit here and fight for funding for a school district. And then you turn around and don’t do anything with it. We have to have some Incentives, right? You gotta have some way to incentivize them to implement those practices and get that going. Because I can sit here and give you $100 million and you can go spend it on cybersecurity, but you need to make sure that it’s implemented correctly, ’cause if it’s not, I might as well not even have cut you a check.

KRISTAL: They have things like penetration testing and phishing testing and things, companies do this, universities do this. A lot of higher ed institutions they have testing where they send out a pretend phishing email or

RODNEY: It’s a sucker test.

KRISTAL: That should be happening. Any organization that’s spending 1% of their annual budget on cybersecurity should be testing to see if it’s working. But I think it’s not that uncommon that we see government agencies spending money and then not testing.

STEVE: I’m gonna go back, because the first question a lot of people are gonna ask is, Hey, wait a second. We had this ARPA bill that dumped a whole lot of money into infrastructure — I have a farm in Rosebud and we don’t have broadband out there. Like it is tough to get broadband going, but I also have an office in Sherwood and from what I’m hearing from you is that the local officials get this bucket of money and they get to help decide where it’s spent.

STEVE: And I happen to know that because I’m being a part of the White County Democrats, the White County Quorum Court got this money and they wanted to spend $26 million building a new courthouse. And we put an end to that. And then I also have sat in those meetings where the judge says there’s a section of White County that’s dark. It’s right west of Searcy, like there is no communication, there’s no wireless communication, there’s no broadband in there, which means the police scanners do not work in that area. The police are blind in that area, and I heard the judge himself say, “why would we invest in that money? Let the companies that make money invest in that. We’re not gonna supplement that. We’re not gonna go in there and put broadband in that.” Because it’s a poor area.

STEVE: Now back to my office in Sherwood. You can see the fiber pole on Kiehl Avenue, a block from where I’m sitting. Instead of getting an office in downtown Little Rock, we got a duplex in the lowest socio-economic neighborhood in Sherwood. We’re not talking about Humnoke. We’re not talking about Eudora. We’re talking about Sherwood, Arkansas, and I’m one block away from the AT&T fiber, but they will not spend the investment to move it a block because they don’t see a return on their investment, but the federal money is there. How does that work?

RODNEY: We’re talking about existing infrastructure and moving it and having to revamp it. There’s a lot of design that goes into that. But you are absolutely correct because if I’m AT&T I want to go ahead and sub tend off of that 2 88 count fiber that’s out there on Langley Road, and I wanna have that, some of those 2 88 coming into your neighborhood over there so that I can go ahead and sub tend with a splitter or a Calix shelf and get you Fiber to the home. You’re talking about less than a drop in the bucket for AT&T. It’s not that expensive. So that’s one issue.

RODNEY: But the other issue is the ARPA money and any federal dollars, right? You’re talking USDA grants. Hell, we can even talk about RDOF, which is the rural distribution on the broadband side, everybody does a bid every few years. But when we’re talking about this infrastructure money that came out, you gotta have the local municipalities partnering with the private companies.

RODNEY: The problem is, private companies decided that they want to use a metric called homes passed where we see what your population looks like, and then we see how many homes we can pass by based off of our design. That’s effectively what the metric is and the higher the homes passed metric is, the more lucrative it is for that company to want to do business. The less homes passed you have, companies don’t wanna come in there ’cause they’re not gonna make any money.

RODNEY: My argument to that is why do you care? (The federal government is) paying you to build the infrastructure anyway. It’s taxpayer money. Just go build the infrastructure because it’s effectively gonna be free. Like you’re doing it at no cost. We’re paying for everything. If we’re paying for everything and then you end up getting some homes along the way, that’s pure profit for you. You didn’t invest anything into building that, right? And then you get those homes passed that covers your maintenance plus some.

RODNEY: So it’s lucrative. It’s designed to be lucrative, but companies are so enamored with the homes passed metric that they don’t care about actually expanding into rural America. When we get elected, we’re definitely gonna be pulling them to the table and explaining to them, if you’re going to take federal dollars, out of $1, I need twenty-five percent to go to towns of less than 5,000 people.

STEVE: As a congressman, you can have a say in how these programs are implemented because there’s another big problem we have in the First District, and I don’t want to get into this today. It’s a topic for a whole other episode. We could spend an hour talking about it but we don’t have a Farm Bill right now. We don’t have a Farm Bill that says how we protect our farmers and how we spend that money and how we’re gonna make sure that our farmers have insurance on their crops. Who is the chair of that committee? I think you’re running against him.

RODNEY: Some days I don’t even know who I’m running against ’cause he never comes back home. It’s hard to see him when he is not here.

STEVE: He was was here last week doing a book signing, wasn’t he in Harrison?

RODNEY: Yeah he was in Harrison on Tuesday doing a book signing. He wasn’t talking to voters though. A couple of people levied some feedback online about that.

RODNEY: Look, there’s a lot of issues in the country. There are a lot of issues here at home in Arkansas. But it’s not out of the realm of possibility that we could actually fix it. But there’s no one person that can fix it. I can’t fix everything and I’m not gonna sit here and try to lie to people and tell you that I can. I don’t have a magic wand. But what I do have is I got two ears for listening, and I’ve got a mouth to ask questions and get clarification. And when we put enough people in the room together. People that want to tell me about their problems and brainstorm with me on how to fix things, we can come up with the best ideas and the best implementation processes that the world’s ever seen, but we gotta do it together.

RODNEY: I’m not gonna sit here and claim to know everything, especially when it comes to farming, right? But I wanna listen. I wanna learn and I wanna make things better. I’m worried about that individual independent rice farmer. How can I make things better for him? How can I make things better for her for that chicken farmer that’s independent that is out there selling eggs? I want to make things better for the individual, the forgotten, the little guy because we’re all little guys at the end of the day, these big corporations just simply have a stranglehold on my opponent and some of the members of Congress right now; they ain’t got a stranglehold over me.

STEVE: Hey, there’s another something that I’ve heard you talking about on the trail and around the office, and we know that you are passionate about what’s going on right now, but tell us what your opinion is on what’s going on in this whole border deal. Can you just speak to us on your knowledge of the situation, what you think is going on, and maybe some solutions for that. What are you thinking?

RODNEY: Yeah I watch Fox News. And they keep using the same rhetoric on every single show: “crisis,” “emergency”. They keep calling this a crisis, emergency. Where I come from, when I came up, an emergency’s gotta be handled right now. If you call something an emergency, but then turn around as an entire party and tell me that you’re gonna wait until after election day to fix it? That’s not an emergency. That’s not a crisis.

RODNEY: In my mind, a crisis is healthcare costs. That’s a crisis. We need to fix that immediately. We need to fix the fact that people are going bankrupt from medical bills. With insurance. Don’t make any sense at all. That’s a crisis. A crisis is the amount of foster kids that we have in care and the lack of foster homes that we have available to put them in. That is a crisis. What’s happening at the border is not a crisis or emergency because if it was, they’d want to fix it today and not wait until after an election. They’re rolling the dice, and if they’re really concerned about safety, if they’re really concerned about the border, Steve, then don’t sit here and try to blame the migrants that are coming.

RODNEY: Let’s blame the immigration court system that is almost hopelessly broken because you’ve got one immigrant court judge that will oversee thousands of cases and they’re running through these cases and these people are not afforded the same rights as American citizens. ‘Cause they’re not American citizens. They don’t get the constitutional right to an attorney. You have these volunteer attorneys that go down there from time to time. But we don’t have enough. We don’t have enough judges, we don’t have enough attorneys.

RODNEY: One of the most heartbreaking things and you can find it online, if you listen to the audio, make sure you bring your tissue box. They literally have two-year-old kids sitting in front of a judge trying to justify why they need to come to America. A two-year-old child where English isn’t even the first language. They don’t have a language. They’re two. They don’t have the vocabulary to express how violent it is in Nicaragua that they had to escape and that they barely were able to take the clothes on their back. They’re not able to explain how the Sinaloa cartel told them that they have to go work for them or die.

RODNEY: They’re two. But they have to take their own defense. The immigration court system in America has to be fixed, and if we fix that foundational piece, then we can build an exemplary border security policy on top of that.

STEVE: There’s two things that jump out. It sure sounds like you can take the experience you have as a CASA advocate and some of the crises that we’ve been dealing with in the foster care system, which are gonna be very similar to what we’re looking at the border. But the other thing that I’ve heard that really jumped out is you point out that they’re calling this a crisis. I grew up in the 1970s and ‘80s and we had a crisis. We had the possibility of nuclear war was the crisis we dealt with. The last decade or so we had an automobile industry who was collapsing, which was gonna suck down the economy of the United States. We had a banking system that failed and we had to go into crisis mode and fix it.

STEVE: We had Katrina, we’ve had other hurricanes, we had Covid. These are crises. And when you have an actual crisis, it doesn’t matter if you’re a Democrat, Republican, independent, Chinese, Nicaraguan, or American, you come together and say, what do we have to do to fix this?

RODNEY: Here’s my issue, Steve. Because everybody wants to play identity politics, okay? I am critical of all leaders, because you’re supposed to be. Not cynical; critical. You’re supposed to question decisions. You’re supposed to question the thought processes so that you can better understand not only their leadership style, but their leadership decision-making processes, right?

RODNEY: You’re supposed to be able to ask questions. I am highly critical of the presidents of the United States of America, the previous ones, as well as the current one. I want to know what were you thinking on this? What were you thinking on that? And I give credit what credit is due. And this is something that you’re not gonna hear a lot of Democrats give credit to Republicans. And you’re not gonna hear a lot of Republicans give credit to Democrats. The biggest thing that I want to give Joe Biden credit for is the infrastructure bill because it showed us, number one, we do have money to fix stuff. Number two, we do need to fix stuff, right? And I think that really showed America that we need to reinvest in our infrastructure.

RODNEY: Look at Helena-West Helena, look no further than Elaine, Arkansas, which is No. 6 on the USA Today list of worst water towers in America, right here in Elaine Arkansas. Arkansas is on there twice, both of them in the First District, by the way.

RODNEY: But I also want to give credit to the previous president for cutting away red tape at the Federal Drug Administration so that we could push through a vaccine. I’m gonna give some credit there because at the end of the day, as a leader, I don’t care if you’re Republican. I don’t care if you’re Democrat, I don’t care if you’re independent.  I care about my people and how in the world can I help the people in the first Congressional district in Arkansas if I’m not willing to hold people accountable and if I’m not willing to work with others that might not think the same exact way.

KRISTAL: We’ve devolved into this culture of let’s just pass blame around and everything is about messaging; the messaging has become more important than the action. It is extremely disturbing to me, and that is one of the reasons why I decided to finally get involved. Now I believe in you and your message and the fact that you are willing to take action regardless of who else is taking action with you to make sure that solutions actually happen. We’re not gonna spend millions on studying this problem and studying that problem when the data is already there. Instead, we’re gonna come up with solutions that help the most people for the least amount of expenditures and get it done.

RODNEY: That’s what the job description says we’re supposed to be doing. I live in a right to work state, so I understand the blurb as other duties are assigned. As a representative, you’re going to have to do more. It’s not just going and casting a ballot, which apparently my opponent struggles with as well. It’s not just going to Washington to, to show up and take some photos. It’ going out there and having uncomfortable conversations with people. When you vote no on the PACT Act (as my opponent Rep. Rick Crawford voted) which made it retroactive for Vietnam era veterans to get benefits from being exposed to Agent Orange, I want to know why you voted that way. Because I go to the VA for healthcare right now and I talk to a lot of Vietnam era veterans, and I want to be able to figure out exactly why my Congressional representative said, you don’t deserve to get benefits for exposure to Agent Orange.

KRISTAL: Good luck asking him ’cause he is got comments turned off on his Twitter and he totally took down his Facebook page.

RODNEY: Maybe he’s got the answer in his book. I don’t know. I can’t afford to read it yet. It’s one of those high-priced books right now. … I also have a problem with how can you sit here and vote no on the infrastructure bill that is encouraging and incentivizing companies to go into rural communities, which overwhelmingly dominate your district and you voted no for it. And then turn around and tweet out “thank you to the infrastructure investment in this area.” There’s a million tweets from Rick Crawford, all four of Arkansas’ Representatives, that want to thank the infrastructure bill for pumping money into Russellville or Texarkana or Northwest, Arkansas and Rogers, all these places, right?

RODNEY: You want to thank the government that you are a part of for providing the infrastructure money, but you voted no on it? No. You don’t get to do that. You don’t get to double dip like that. You don’t get to try to say, I voted no on it, and then celebrate it because it passes. That’s not the way it’s supposed to work. If it’s going to help people, I don’t care who comes up with the idea. And you’re not supposed to care. Politics should not be this divisive; determining policy and policy spending and budgeting should not be so divisive that we hate each other.

RODNEY: It’s supposed to be a moment where we all come together and hate the government together. It like, my goodness, what are they doing, spending money over here? That’s something that’s supposed to be unifying, but we’ve just gotten to the point where we’ve devolved and we’ve allowed everything to become politicized, and it’s not supposed to be that way. Hopefully, we’ll be changing that soon.

KRISTAL: Yep. I think that you said it exactly. I don’t have a problem with it being divisive. I have a problem with it when the divisiveness devolves into hate and lies and gaslighting, and an inability to pass basic freaking legislation. Are we on the way to setting a record for the number of band-aids we put on passing a budget right now?

RODNEY: Let’s just go back to the basics, right? Let’s talk about the immigration stuff. What’s the process for somebody to try to seek asylum or somebody to try to enter the United States of America for protection? There is literally a process. It’s a UN resolution that was passed and really championed by the Security Council. That entire UN resolution was written by and ratified by multiple different administrations and ambassadors, including Republicans and Democrats alike.

RODNEY: And this resolution says that as somebody who’s not from this country seeking to enter , you have to report to an authorized port of entry. There is one along the border of Mexico. There’s quite a few actually, and whether you’re trying to get into Arizona, whether you’re trying to get into Texas, they’ve got authorized ports of entry to go there. You’re supposed to fill out some paperwork and then you’re waiting to hear back. The problem is while you’re waiting to hear back, it shouldn’t take seven years, but you’re still in danger. The gangs down in Nicaragua aren’t gonna wait for that ten-year-old kid to hear back on his asylum application. They’re going to get him now. The Sinaloa cartel could care less that you’re waiting on an assignment to an immigration attorney before they can figure out if they’re gonna let you come into the country or not. The Sinaloa cartel will come get you now. So we need to be able to react to that a little bit quicker.

RODNEY: And I think making somebody wait for years, no wonder they’re trying to get into this country illegally. No wonder they’re not willing to wait. A lot of these people are in danger, and if you are in danger, you ain’t waiting either. And it’s just something that simple people don’t understand that there is a UN resolution that says these people have to come to the border. If they’re seeking asylum, they have to go present themselves.

KRISTAL: They don’t understand that because it doesn’t fit the picture and the messaging and the gaslighting that certain people are putting out…

RODNEY: It’s the same thing with gas prices. Everybody wants to blame a president for gas prices or give a president credit for gas prices. How can you give a president credit when over 80% of the world’s oil and oil prices are set by a group of countries, none of which are the United States of America. It’s all OPEC. People seem to forget that, right? Because it’s not convenient.

RODNEY: This is common sense to me. It’s time that we bring some of this stuff back and we stopped focusing on the emotions of things, and we start actually focusing on the facts of things.

KRISTAL: Yep. And proposing solutions.

RODNEY: I’m going to make sure that I know the facts that are in order so that we can make the best decision going forward. And that’s what we’re all about over here, Rodney For Congress.

KRISTAL: So I just wanna let everybody know this is the first full-length podcast episode. We are gonna be doing this about once a week, eventually more often. We are also going to be having some live events and we’ll be doing some live podcast recordings that double as town halls. And Rodney is gonna be sharing his dash cam with us too as he goes on some tours of each town. And we would love to have some local storytellers from every single town in the First District. If you’re not sure what district you’re in, you can find that at On the news section, there is a blog post that has the list of all the counties in the First District, there’s thirty-one of them.

KRISTAL: We would love to hear from you and what things you would like to talk about. Specific questions for the candidate for us to talk about on future podcast episodes. Or if you would like to show us around your town and show us what makes it great and what things that your community needs help with, whether it’s infrastructure issues or education or whatever that is we are interested in it.

STEVE: Great discussion. I appreciate everybody being here today and we will see you later on the trail. Thanks, y’all.

There are no winners in war!

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A reminder why we DON`T want to re elect Rick Crawford!

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- Rodney Govens via Ballotpedia
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-Rodney Govens via Ballotpedia.

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I`m honored to have earned the recommendation of the Arkansas Education Association for the 2024 General Election.

In Congress, I pledge to work for more public education resources; including funding to safeguard schools and students from cyber and physical threats, and better opportunities for rural schools that are the lifeblood of their local communities.

Serious about public education? With your donation of just $5 or $25 today, I can win this race!

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QUOTE OF THE DAY: Rodney Govens via Ballotpedia

"There are no winners in war."

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