Some voters in Arkansas’s 1st Congressional District will believe Princella Smith is just too young to be a congresswoman. Doing business on Capital Hill requires wisdom and life experience; at 26-years-old, Smith is a baby. Of course, age was not an issue for Edward Rutledge, who at 26 signed the Declaration of Independence. Nor was age an issue for Amelia Earhart, who at 25 set an altitude record for female aviators.
Besides, according to Article 1, Section 2, of the U.S. Constitution the only qualifications required to serve in the House of Representatives are that a person “have attained the age of 25 years, and been seven years a citizen of the United States, and who shall, when elected, be an inhabitant of that state in which he shall be chosen.” Princella Smith certainly passes constitutional muster. It is, however, her vast experience that makes her not only more than qualified, but perhaps the best choice to represent the people of the 1st District.
Princella Smith has clerked at the U.S. Department of Labor, was e-campaign director for then Maryland Lt. Governor Michael Steele’s Senate campaign, national spokesperson for “American Solutions,” the issues advocacy group begun by former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich; she was even a prime-time speaker at the Republican National Convention in New York.
However, the road to Washington is both long and is scattered with more obstacles than just age.
Princella is a conservative Republican running for office in a district that hasn’t elected a Republican since 1872, which, no doubt, explains why the district is filled with crumbling schools, high unemployment, and deep-seated racial tensions. Smith is also black and the district she seeks to represent resides in a Southern state that has never elected a black person to a congressional or state-wide office.
The good news is that Arkansas is still a place where values matter. What Princella has going for her is that while she may not share party affiliation with many of the voters of the 1st, she shares their values; she is one of them.
The 1st is a large district extending from the Mississippi River to northern Arkansas near the Missouri border and encompassing 26 counties. Miss Smith was born and raised in Wynne, Arkansas, a rural farming county in the Delta and one of the poorest regions in the country. Her father is a pastor and former school board member. Her mother is a vice-principal at one of the local high schools. The people of Wynne know the Smiths and more importantly they know Princella. People from all over the district watched her grow up; some of them coached her to a college basketball scholarship, others watched her clean toilets to make spending money; some cheered her academic success, and many proudly tuned in to their televisions when she began appearing on the cable news as a political commentator. Smith is home-grown, which presents a challenge to local Democrats.
For generations the Democratic Party machine has controlled elections in the 1st District by using the black churches to turn out large numbers of black voters. We will now see what happens when these black church going voters have a choice between a young, dynamic, black candidate from good, home-grown stock and a candidate from the party machine that makes, (and breaks), the same promises that Democrats always do.
We will also see if the Republican Party agrees with Smith that, “the Republican Party must become a party of energy, of ideas, of passion and citizen participation.”
The “Grand Old Party” is increasingly seen as precisely that: old! This is, after all, the party that saw fit to dust off a tired 73-year-old John McCain to run against a young, energetic and charismatic Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential election. Besides Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), Republicans are hard pressed to point to very many young, smart and charismatic voices; Princella Smith is all three.
She also possesses common sense, a trait displayed in Washington far too infrequently. For instance, she recognizes that increased entitlements must be paid for through higher taxes. Increased entitlements, coupled with tax cuts lead to increased debt. Talking about tax cuts without talking about spending cuts is a failure of Congress to exercise its fiduciary responsibility.
Smith is also a proponent of the flat tax. “I would like to replace the monstrous tax code with a single sheet of paper that every American can fill out,” She says. “One flat tax-rate that everyone—corporations included—will pay.”
Yes, Princella Smith is only 26. However, given the propensity of our older and wiser representatives to spend money the country doesn’t have--running up trillion dollar deficits for as far as the eye can see—I find a bit of comfort in Smith’s youthful enthusiasm. “I am fighting on behalf of my generation,” she says. “It’s my generation that is going to have to pay this debt!”
Run, Princella, run!