Editor’s Note: This article marks the first time that the Observer has held a discussion with a Democrat candidate in Baxter County. In the name of political fairness, we have reached out to State Senator Scott Flippo to schedule an interview. If other candidates in the area would like to schedule an interview with the Observer, they may do so by emailing newsroom@MHObserver.com.
Local State Senate Candidate and Mountain Home local, Derek Huber is officially setting off on his “Ride the District” campaign today.
The campaign will see Huber traveling hundreds of miles around Boone, Marion, Baxter, Fulton, and Izard counties by mountain bike and kayak over 7 to 10 days.
He will be joined by a film and support crew to document his journey to reach out to community members in each county. His campaign has partnered with Jake Anderson of Norfork Adventure Supply to help with logistics, navigation, and potential equipment failures.
Huber’s first campaign stop of the ride will be in Fulton County, where he will be hosting an event alongside the Fulton County Democrats at the Fulton County Fairgrounds. The event is scheduled to start at noon in the Hickinbotham building and will run until 1 p.m.
Huber’s next stop will take him back home to Baxter County on Saturday, where he’ll be hosting a picnic at the Rendezvous in Gassville from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m.
Sunday’s adventure will see the young Democrat in Yellville alongside candidates Carl McBee and Beth Casteel, who are both seeking to become JPs for Marion County. Lunch will take place at Yellville City Park and is sponsored by the Marion County Democrats.
Those interested in following the tour can follow along on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and on the route page: https://huberforsenate.com/ridethedistrict
A Different Kind of Democrat
Running as a Democrat in Baxter County isn’t easy.
The county is deeply Republican, breaking over 30 points for President Trump in the 2020 elections. Almost every single political office in the county is held by the Republican Party, leaving little room for Democrats to gain a foothold in a county they once controlled during the 1980’s.
And while Huber knows that he has an uphill climb to win over community members in State Senate District 23, he’s quick to say it’s a needed climb for his own party.
“I’m frustrated with Democrats,” Huber said. “One of the things I like to tell people when they start going off on the Democrat party is, how does it ever get better unless better Democrats come forward? I hope I can improve the Democratic Party through my participation in Arkansas, but I say all that to say that the party platform going back to FDR was all about trying to create mobility and opportunities.”
Huber’s frustrations with his party are evident in his own political platform, where he differs from many of the mainstream political stances associated with the Democrat Party.
On the topic of health care, Huber states that he’s not interested in socializing medicine for everyone in the country, though he is interested in helping the uninsured avoid medical debt, which is the leading cause of bankruptcy in the U.S. Instead, he wants to hash out problems within our current healthcare system, while expanding portions of the Medicaid system to cover those with mental health problems.
“I think for me, is that I see a lot of hopelessness in different directions,” Huber said. “Whether you’re looking at reincarnation rates or you’re looking at suicide rates for veterans. It’s a loss of hope. My mother was an addict, I lost her when I was very young, and my brother committed suicide when we were kids. I come from a pretty challenge situation, so I understand what it’s like to be on the bottom rung of society.”
Huber also said that he would like to focus on helping people get out of addiction and poverty, instead of expanding Arkansas’s jail systems to incarcerate more people.
“We need to provide rehabilitation services and we need these things available locally,” Huber said. “We don’t need to be sending our people and our kids over to Memphis and Fayetteville.”
Unlike his fellow Democrats, Huber is also a staunch advocate in the Second Amendment, despite his brother’s use of a gun during his tragic suicide, and fully acknowledges the right of people to own guns for self-defense.
He is a recreational shooter and hunter and owns an AR-10 rifle chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor.
Instead of banning firearms, Huber said he wants his party to focus more on educating people about safe gun handling techniques, while also promoting school shooting clubs and sports. His platform also emphasizes a greater focus on reaching out to troubled teenagers to help with their mental health issues. Teenagers make up the vast majority of mass shooters in the U.S.
“To my 2A friends I say, I don’t support a ban on ‘assault rifles’” Huber said. “These rifles were banned from 1994 to 2004 and it didn’t statistically help anything that a vibrant economy and funded healthcare system don’t solve by itself. The ban won’t work, and it would be a colossal waste of time because at best they can offer a voluntary buy-back.”
With rising inflation and gas prices, debate over green energy, taxation and spending have taken a center spotlight in November’s elections.
For green energy, Huber said that he was fascinated by the technology, but also acknowledges that the industry played its own part in damaging the environment and still has a way to go before replacing fossil fuels. Huber has worked the railroad system in Arkansas and has visited several coal plants throughout his time on the job.
Huber also said he backed nuclear power as a clean energy source during his conversation with the Observer.
On taxation, Huber said he was open to embracing State Republicans and their plan to get rid of income taxes to provide relief to families, but wonders what other tax increases may come about without the income tax. Several states, like Alaska, make up their lost revenue from not having an income tax through high property taxes.
Huber said he did not want to see government services or jobs, especially those in education, get cut to make up for the loss in revenue. He also said that he would like to see a complete overhaul of the sales tax system on the business side.
Huber founded his own media company, Huber Media Inc., in 2019.
“From talking to teachers, they’re concerned that part of those tax cuts will come at the cost of consolidating schools,” Huber said. “The sales tax system on the business side is awful. Everyone hates using it. It’s time consuming. And it takes another employee to do it.”
Huber is also running on a pro-marijuana ticket. He said legalized recreational marijuana can be a great income source for small farmers throughout Arkansas, and that he would like to see the state regulate the drug in a similar manner to alcohol.
Huber emphasized that the drug should be for adult use only.
Other items on Huber’s agenda if he is elected include the completion of a four lane highway in Northern Arkansas, ending gerrymandering, term limits for politicians, and providing more funding for tourism and infrastructure to the area.
Huber is the first Democrat to run for State Senate District 23 in almost 15 years. He is facing off against incumbent and Mountain Home native Scott Flippo.
“We need to start having some events. We need to get out in our community and do volunteer work. We need to feed the folks that we can,” Huber said. “It’s back to the grassroots thing. We are in the Bible Belt, and I like to give spiritual answers when I can, and the Bible tells us that they’ll know us by the fruits of our labor.”