State's Top Democrat Tells Members to Stop Helping GOP

LITTLE ROCK, AR - The head of Arkansas' Democratic Party is asking lawmakers in his party to avoid taking friendships forged with Republicans to the campaign trail.

Bill Gwatney, the chairman of the Democratic Party of Arkansas, mailed a letter to party members after two fundraisers for Republicans were hosted by Democratic lawmakers.

Gwatney says he mailed the letter on behalf of activists concerned about party members supporting GOP legislators.

Gwatney wrote the letter after incoming House Speaker Robbie Willis and 11 other Democrats were listed as members of a host committee for a fundraiser last month for Republical Representative Bryan King of Green Forrest.

Gwatney says the fundraiser left him feeling "somewhat betrayed."  He says he sent the letter hoping to prevent similar events from occuring.

In the two-page letter, he cites the Little Rock fundraiser for King and another fundraiser last year for Senator Gilbert Baker, the former chairman of the state GOP.  Baker's fundraiser was hosted by outgoing Senate President Jack Critcher, a Democrat from Batesville, and incoming Senate President Bob Johnson, a Democrat from Bigelow.

Both King and Baker face Democratic opposition in the November general election.

Critcher says he thinks Gwatney's letter is appropriate, but that he's heard from some Democratic senators who said they were displeased with the message.  Critcher says all he did with Baker's fundraiser last year was put his name on the invitation as a host.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)