Leader Blues

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

TOP STORY >>County jail a hot issue as voters go to polls

Leader staff writer

North Pulaski County voters have only two contested local races Nov. 7, plus the statewide constitutional offices and a nominal challenge to the congressional incumbent. In Pulaski County, voters will choose between First Dist. Cong. Vic Snyder, D-Little Rock, and Andy Mayberry, a Republican. (The district also includes Beebe.) Snyder, a lawyer, physician and Vietnam-era Marine, was a state representative before going to Congress in 1996. In the Jacksonville area he is known for helping grow Little Rock Air Force Base and for his support of the community/Air Force base education Center. He serves on the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs and house armed services committee. Mayberry, who has never held elected office, is a state employee related to Gov. Mike Huckabee.


County Judge Buddy Villines, a Democrat, is seeking his ninth term at the head of county government. His challenger, Buddy York, a Republican, is a North Little Rock bail bondsman. The biggest issue is the county jail and money to run it. York says bail bondsmen are the key to operating the jail efficiently. Bondsmen are losing business because so many people arrested know there’s no room for them in the jail, thus no need to post bond. Previously, Villines, a lawyer, was Little Rock mayor. He worked hard in September in a failed effort to get a dedicated quarter-cent sales tax approved to expand and run the county lockup.


Democrat Doc Holladay and DeWayne Graham, a Republican, face off in a contest to re-place Sheriff Randy Johnson, who is retiring. Again, expanding and running the jail is the biggest issue, with media-savvy Graham—a former television reporter—bringing a controversial Arizona sheriff to endorse him and setting up a tent across from the Pulaski County Detention Center to call attention to his campaign. Graham says he’ll house non-violent inmates in large tents, he says.
Holladay, a long-time Little Rock Police Department information officer, has worked in the professional-standards unit of the Pulaski County Sheriff’s Department since June 2004.


Mayor—Alderman Dan Steadman is running against Mike Presson, a restaurant owner, to succeed Bill Harmon, retiring after 15 years as mayor. City Clerk/Treasurer Virginia Hillman, who has served in that position since 2001, faces a challenge from Sharon McMinn. In Ward I, Position 1, Robert Wallace, a firefighter, is challenging incumbent Becky Vassar.
Greg Chastain and Charlie Harmon seek the Ward I, Position 2 aldermanic seat being vacated by Steadman.
Chastain, who lost a bid for a council seat two years ago, cut his political teeth on the successful grassroots effort to prevent the North Belt Freeway from cutting through several Sherwood subdivisions. Harmon, the son of the current mayor, is a lawyer in the Dillards real estate division.


There are no contested Jacksonville races.


Four candidates square off in the first gubernatorial race without an incumbent in many years. In order of appearance on the Pulaski County ballot, they are Asa Hutchinson, Rob Bryan, Atty. Gen. Mike Beebe and Jim Lindall. Hutchinson, the Republican, is former deputy director of Homeland Security and as an Arkansas congressman, was the prosecutor when Congress impeached President Bill Clinton.

Bryan, an independent, works in a restaurant, commutes by bicycle and is a musician. Beebe, a Democrat, was a state representative and a state senator before election to his current office. Lindall, the bearded Mr. Natural-look-alike, having served four terms as a state representative, keeps on truckin’. Lindall works as a nurse practitioner and introduced legislation several times to repeal the grocery tax—an idea all four candidates now embrace.


Running for lieutenant governor are state Sen. Jim Holt, a Republican, and Bill Halter, a Democrat. Holt was the lone state senator to vote against raising the minimum wage, calling it “Soviet-style communism.” He served one term in the Arkansas House of Representatives and one in the state Senate. He worked for the National Security Agency, according to his Website, which doesn’t list any employment for the father of eight.

Halter was a deputy director of Social Security under President Clinton. He owns several high-tech businesses. He dropped out of the race for governor to seek this position.


Incumbent Charlie Daniels, a Democrat, faces Republican Jim LaGrone and Green Party Candidate Ralph “Marty” Scully.
LaGrone has attacked Daniels for hiring his son and daughter-in-law, but Daniels said his son worked in the secretary of state’s office for years before he was elected, and his daughter-in-law worked elsewhere in state government.
LaGrone, a Baptist preacher and evangelist, served on the Bryant School Board. Scully, a 59-year-old retiree from Consolidated Freightways, lives in Mountain Home. He is a lifelong labor supporter and was a member of the Teamsters for 30 years.


Gunner DeLay, Rebekah Kennedy and state Rep. Dustin McDaniel are competing for the job being vacated by Mike Beebe, who hopes to be governor come January. Delay, a Republican, has served two terms as a state representative and one as a state senator. He lost a special election in 2001 to John Boozman to fill the 3rd Congressional District seat Hutchinson left to work for the Drug Enforcement Agency. Kennedy, the Green Party candidate, is a 27-year-old Fort Smith attorney. McDaniel, a state Representative and a lawyer, is a former Jonesboro patrolman. He’ll work to lower prescription drug prices, he says.


Martha A. Shoffner, a Democrat from Newport, Brock Carpenter of the Green Party, and Chris Morris, a Republican, seek the position currently held by Gus Wingfield. Shoffner, a three-term state representative, served as chairman of the State Agencies and Governmental Affairs Committee. She is a real estate agent. Carpenter is a Hendrix student.
Morris is an aide to Gov. Mike Huckabee.


Green Party Candidate Joseph Bolzenius is the only challenger against state Auditor Jim Wood. Wood, a Democrat, is a farmer with 16 years service in the state General Assembly. He has served as auditor since January 2003. Bolzenius, 27, is currently completing work on his degree in political science and history at UALR and works in classified advertising for a local newspaper.


Green Party candidate R. David Lewis, a Little Rock attorney, is challenging Democrat Mark Wilcox, the incumbent. Wilcox has served since January 2003. Prior to that, he served as justice of the peace and tax collector in Faulkner County.


Voters will decide whether or not to issue $250 million in general-obligation bonds with the money earmarked for institutions of higher learning and whether or not to amend the state Constitution to allow certain nonprofit organizations to conduct lotteries and bingo.

Both Referred Question No. 1 and Proposed Constitutional Amendment No. 1 were referred to the people by the General Assembly. Referred Question No. 1, with the popular name “Arkansas Higher Education Technology and Facility Improvement Act of 2005,” would allow the state to issue the bonds to finance developing technology and facility projects for state institutions of higher education. The constitutional amendment requires that the organizations must have been in existence for five years and the proceeds must be used for charitable or philanthropic purposes.