Leader Blues

Thursday, January 17, 2008

TOP STORY >> Candidates for state seats increase

By JOHN HOFHEIMER
Leader senior staff writer


Arkansas may have moved the date of its presidential primaries up to Super Tuesday, Feb. 5, this year, along with 23 other states, but locally, those seeking state, county and city offices will square off in primaries May 20.

Statewide, at least 35 House seats are up for grabs—29 because of term limits, three—so far — where incumbents are expected to be challenged, two where representatives are leaving to run for the state Senate and one because of retirement.
While state Senators Bobby Glover, D-Carlisle and John Paul Capps, D-Searcy, will finish out the final two years of their terms, virtually every state representative in this area is finishing their eligibility.

The filing deadlines for state office are noon March 3 until noon March 12, so there’s plenty of time for other candidates to join the fray.

The area is losing a wealth of competence and experience in the House with the departure of Bond; Sandra Prater, D-North Pulaski County; Jeff Wood, D-Sherwood; Susan Schulte, R-Cabot; Lenville Evans, D-Lonoke; Mark Pate, D-Beebe, and David Evans, D-Searcy.

SCHULTE’S SEAT

Former state Rep. Randy Minton and Cabot attorney Davy Carter both have announced their intention to seek the Republican nomination for Susan Schulte’s Dist. 48 position. Minton left that position four years ago to run for state Senate against Glover.

Now he says he wants it back for the final two years of his eligibility and will then run for the state Senate position from which Glover will be barred by term limits in the 2010 election. Minton is the only announced candidate among locals seeking a state representative seat so far with legislative experience.

Minton is a farmer and commercial and agricultural appraiser who likes to say he’s in “the Republican wing of the Republican party.”

Carter, former vice president and general counsel for Community Bank in Cabot, pledges to work in unison with leaders of all political backgrounds.

REPLACING PRATER

Seeking Sandra Prater’s north Pulaski seat in the House are Val Yagos, a Democrat, and Republican Jane English.

Yagos says she wants to continue along the path Prater was on, working on healthcare and educational issues. “I’m working with the Jacksonville World Class Education Organization,” she said. Her background is in computer programming.

English is a retired executive who worked more than two decades in government and the private sector to bring more jobs to Arkansas and to strengthen the economy. She is a volunteer liason between the military and private sector employees.

SEEKING WOOD’S SEAT

In Dist. 43, Jeff Wood, whose district includes parts of Jacksonville, Sherwood and North Little Rock, is termed out and will be in Iraq as a captain in the 39th Infantry Brigade.

Seeking his position are Jim Nickels, a Democrat, who is a college professor, lawyer and veteran.

He is opposed by Tom Raley, a Republican, who is campaigning as an advocate for foster children. He and his wife have been foster parents and are in the process of adopting their fourth child from the system.

BYE BYE BOND

In Dist. 44, state Rep. Will Bond was very active on a number of issues and authored legislation to help move Jacksonville toward an independent school district and to help end the decades old school desegregation agreement by encouraging PCSSD, Little Rock and North Little Rock districts to apply for unitary status and release from court oversight.

Seeking to replace Bond is Mark Perry, a Democrat and an insurance salesman.

Perry has been active in improving Jacksonville area public education, was a force behind the new Jacksonville Middle School field house and is among those working to get a new Jacksonville Middle School built.

EVANS TERMED OUT

Running to replace Lenville Evans of Lonoke, the Dist. 15 representative, are Republican Doug Hatcher of Ward, Democrat Walls McCrary of Lonoke and independent Trent Elits.

Hatcher, who lost to Evans in 2002, will run on a platform of tougher sentences and more prison beds. His son Jason Hatcher was murdered by four gang members in 1993 after a parking-lot fight. Hatcher is a Union Pacific engineer.

McCrary is city treasurer, a community leader and retired businessman in Lonoke. He says he will focus on education and economic development. He also owns and manages farm land.

Elits, a Kodak manufacturer’s representative, has a degree in industrial technology and deployed for Desert Storm and to Somolia. He’d promote alternative fuels and high-speed Internet.

PATE GONE TOO

Dist. 49 Rep. Mark Pate is term limited. Former Beebe School Superintendent Kieth Williams has announced he will run for the position as a Democrat.

Jonathan Dismang, a Republican, who is chief financial officer for a real estate investment firm, is also running. He would promote education, job growth and public safety.