Democratic state Rep. Clarke Tucker took full advantage of Republican incumbent Rep. French Hill’s refusal to participate in a TV debate on Channel 7 last night with a series of jabs at Hill on policy issues and for avoiding debate.

Perhaps reflecting a recent change in his top campaign management, Tucker landed a series of crafted one-liners that he repeated in series on his Twitter account.

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There were several references to his campaign staple — health coverage and his own experience with cancer treatment. For example:

* Cancer does not have a political party. Hunger does not have a political party. Hopes and dreams don’t have a political party.

* About 50% of the non-elderly population here in Central Arkansas has a pre-existing conditionAbout 50% of the non-elderly population here in Central Arkansas has a pre-existing condition

But Tucker jabbed sharply at Republican policies that Hill has endorsed, and not just the Hill-backed legislation that would have gutted the Affordable Care Act and its requirement of full coverage for pre-existing medical conditions. Tucker is a moderate, collaborative sort by nature, but Democratic partisans have been hungering for him to respond more forcefully to incessant attacks on Tucker by Hill and deep pocket dark money tying him to Nancy Pelosi. He seemed to move in that direction last night.

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* If you vote for a bill that’s going to grow the deficit by $1.9 trillion dollars, you cannot call yourself a fiscal conservative.

* The separation of families at the border is one of the worst practices that our government has engaged in in my lifetime.”

* There are still people who work hard, sometimes more than one job, and still can’t afford life’s basic needs. 

* We need to make sure our trade policy is fair to the American worker, curbs currency manipulation, and incentivizes buying American.

He fired back, too, at attack ads over his votes of “present” on some hot-button Republican legislation designed to demagogue abortion and similar issues.

If we spend the next 48 days talking about my record in the legislature, I have no doubt we’ll win this race.

He also vowed to have at least one in-person forum a month with constituents. Hill has avoided public forums, preferring “telephone town halls” that are not widely disseminated and shield a candidate from tough questioning. He said:

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It says a lot about Congressman Hill’s record that he won’t show up here tonight.

I suspect few people saw last night’s event. Given the tenor, I’d guess Hill will stay in hiding, except for a single AETN debate in October. Tucker has called on Hill to join him in a series of three debates. Hill hasn’t responded.

PS: It appears the race is on. Tucker will have a news conference this afternoon to discuss third-party attacks on him.