Why I Ran for Searcy City Council

Anyone who has ever chosen to run for public office can tell you that it is not an easy decision to make. Nor should it be. Running a campaign is a grueling, daunting task that taxes your body, mind, & possibly even spirit. More on that later.

Today I just wanted to share with you why I chose to run. There were several reasons circulated during the campaign & I feel it is important to set the record straight.

Most of you likely remember the A&P Tax debacle that consumed Searcy politics for nearly two years. The Searcy City Council passed an Advertising & Promotion ordinance that established an A&P Commission and raised taxes by 1% on food (which could be raised to 2-3% by a simple majority vote of the council at any time) & 3% on any lodging in the city. They did not just pass the ordinance (which would have been bad enough). Rather, they passed the ordinance after hearing from literally hundreds of voters who opposed the measure. They also broke several of their own promises with the ordinance they passed. At a public forum in February 2009, they told the voters that a certain portion of the A&P revenue would be earmarked for Parks & Recreation. The actual ordinance looked very different, with no specific purpose set for the revenue. This began to raise several concerns about the intentions of the council and also the ultimate effect that an A&P Tax & Commission would have on our hometown.

After the council refused to place the ordinance on the ballot before the voters, a group called “Searcy Friends of the Voters” formed & began circulating petitions to place the issue before the people. It is important to note here that this is the only municipal tax the only tax in Arkansas that a city council can impose with a simple majority vote without letting the people vote—an issue that I hope the Arkansas legislature will address in the near future. This of course led many to believe that this particular tax was chosen for that very reason. It is presumed that the council knew that, given the national political climate & the defeat of a sales tax at the polls in 2007, that they could not legitimately pass the tax through the voters.

This knowledge also presumably led them to take several unlawful actions that have been documented elsewhere on the web. These actions included the refusal to accept the petitions that were deemed to be proper & sufficient. Also, a refusal to suspend collection of the tax until after the special election, despite a constitutional mandate to do so.

At the same time, patriots all over the nation were rising up in angst at the proposal of Obamacare & a massive expansion of the federal government. Millions upon millions of Americans attended TEA Party rallies; hundreds of thousands marched on Washington on 9/12/09. The congressional phone lines rang off the hook. Mail & email were flooded. The American people did not want this bill. And in early 2010, Congress passed it anyway.

It became painstakingly obvious to me that the same type of out-of-touch, ideological representatives in Washington had infiltrated my hometown government and they were ramming through freedom-killing legislation at every turn.

After litigation & many months of gridlock, all of these actions by the council eventually harvested a defeat of the A&P Tax at the ballot on April 13, 2010, by a vote of 1,574 to 1,331—a margin of nearly 10%. The people had spoken loudly & clearly.

And it was clear that we needed new leadership in this city, so I stepped up to the plate.

With all of that said, the A&P issue alone did not drive my entrance into local politics. Rather, the A&P spoke to a broader issue of corruption & patronage that has been crippling our city for years. It exposed motives & shined light into the shadows of our local government. The A&P was just an embodiment of the problems that have been festering. Furthermore, the entire A&P debacle showed the people of Searcy the true colors of our elected officials & served as a baseline for judging the rest of their decisions throughout the 2009-2010 term. They were (and remain) out of touch with what the people of Searcy really want—transparency, commonsense & honesty. I wanted to bring those values to the council.

You know, at the end of the day, my motives were pretty simple: I love this city. It is my hometown; it’s where I grew up. I served on the Searcy Youth Council; I played ball here, volunteered here, participated in community outreach and so on. Furthermore, I am a problem-solver and I have never been able to sit idly by and let problems perpetuate when I know I can be part of the solution. After much prayer & consideration, I entered the lion’s den of local politics.

And frankly, someone had to. Someone had to be the voice of reason & give the people a clear choice. I had no “agenda,” nor was I trying to “launch my political career” as I was often accused. In fact, before the A&P debacle, I can honestly say that I had never thought much about ever running for office. Sure, I had been active in politics, but I was more than happy being a casual observer & commentator. Only after the repeated infractions of the council did I even consider joining the fight. (Now that I have gotten a taste of running a campaign, I can say that I may not be able to help myself—it is a true joy to pour yourself into something so daunting, with a pure intention to simply serve people.)

This campaign was never about me. If it had been about me, then I would not have run. There were plenty of other opportunities for me to pursue outside of Searcy politics. But I could not sit by & watch my hometown slowly destruct without trying to make a difference.

Perhaps the most pivotal moment in my decision to run for office came at a Taxed Enough Already rally in 2009. One of the speakers read this now all-too-famous Edmund Burke quote:

All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.

It challenged me & it confirmed a calling that I was already feeling on my life for the coming year. Despite the outcome, I am glad that I listened. I hope it challenges you as well. From the beginning, I told folks that win or lose, this campaign would be a success as long as we were able to educate people & engage them in their government. So the success of this campaign depends on you. Will you take a more active role in your community? Will you attend a city council meeting or write a letter to your local paper about a city issue?

Do not sit idly by & let freedom be stolen from us. Be vigilant & question boldly.


Nicholas Horton is the Editor of The Arkansas Patriot. Contact Nicholas at arkansaspatriot@gmail.com & follow him on Twitter.



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  2. Tina Horton

    Thank you so much for investing in our hometown. Whether or not you seek public office again, you more than reached your goal of stirring citizens to action and creating in them a desire to be involved in local politics. I cannot help but think of Lincoln, who was defeated many times before the people were ready and/or willing to listen his voice. The people are awake now, and maybe soon, they too will be ready to listen.

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