Leader Blues

Friday, May 02, 2008

TOP STORY > >Early voting set to begin on Monday

Leader senior staff writer

When early voting in the May preferential primary elections gets underway Monday, Lonoke County voters will decide on a sales tax to build a new jail and also choose between a sitting circuit judge being challenged by the prosecuting attorney for a circuit judgeship.

Meanwhile, in Pulaski County, the county judge is being challenged both in the primary and, if he wins, in the general election.
Lonoke County long ago outgrew its decrepit jail and officials have been trying for years to expand and update the existing jail or to build a new one. The quorum court voted unanimously to put the sales tax before voters in the primary election and a meeting of the county Republican Party signed off on the tax nearly unanimously.

Lonoke Republicans, who usually work against new taxes, have gotten behind the effort to pass the one-cent, 12-month sales tax, expected to raise about $5 million for the construction of a new, 140-bed jail.

No one seems to think a new jail isn’t necessary. Those who oppose it seem to think it should be paid for in some other fashion.


Circuit Judge Lance Hanshaw is retiring after 30 years on the bench and all three circuit judgeships are up for grabs. By state law, the primary serves as the election of record for all judgeships, which are nonpartisan.

That said, candidates Lona McCastlain and Chuck Graham have been active in Lonoke County Republican politics. McCastlain, the Lonoke County prosecutor, will serve out the final two years of her four-year term if she fails to beat Judge Philip Whiteaker in the race for the Division 2 judgeship. If she wins, Gov. Mike Beebe will appoint a Lonoke County prosecutor to serve out her term.

McCastlain successfully prosecuted former Lonoke Police Chief Jay Campbell and his wife Kelly Harrison Campbell on a variety of drug and theft charges last year.

Whiteaker has been reelected without opposition since he won over Cabot District Judge Joe O’Bryan 11 years ago.

Graham, who serves as a deputy prosecutor under McCastlain, is running against Circuit Judge Barbara Elmore for the Division 1 circuit judgeship. Elmore served as district judge until Beebe appointed her circuit judge beginning last July after the state Legislature created a third division in Lonoke County.

Sandy Huckabee, Hanshaw’s son-in-law, is running unopposed for the Division 3 judgeship.


Dissatisfaction with the current, 880-bed Pulaski County Detention Center has spilled over into both the Democratic primary and November general election races for County Judge.

County Judge Buddy Villines, 60, seeking his sixth two-year term, is being challenged for the second consecutive time by Buddy York, 70, a bail bondsman in the Democratic primary.

In the November general election, the winner will face Phil Wyrick, 58, a businessman, former legislator and former head of the state’s Livestock and Poultry Commission.

York, a bail bondsman for 30 years, says he would “cut off some of the fat from all of the departments,” to fund expansion of the jail.


On the Lonoke County Quorum Court, these races will be on the primary ballot: In the Republican Primary, District 2, JP Jannette Minton against Larry Ridgeway; District 3, JP Larry Odom against Lisa F. Shotts; District 4, JP Donna Pedersen against Tim Lemons; District 6, JP Alexis Malham against Harry Roderick.

Davy Carter of Cabot faces Randy Minton of Ward in the Republican Primary for the state Representative 48 seat currently held by Susan Schulte. Schulte can’t run again because of term limits. The winner of this race faces John W. Harty, a Cabot independent.

Tom Raley and Steven Meck-fessel, both of Sherwood, are competing for the Republican nomination for the state Representative seat now held by Jeff Wood. The winner will face Democrat Jim Nickels.

These races will be on the ballot for the Democratic Primary: District 7, Adam Sims against Robert I. Depriest III; District 8, JP Roger Dale Lynch against Richard Kyzer; District 10, Wes Clement, Ronald L. Evans and Bill Ryker.

Kyzer recently moved and resigned from the quorum court, but will now challenge Lynch for the District 6 seat.

If no one wins more than 50 percent of the vote in the District 10 race between Clement, Evans and Ryker, it will be settled in a June 10 runoff election.


Early voting sites include Jacksonville City Hall, Jack Evans Senior Center in Sherwood and in Little Rock, a new site at the Pulaski County Regional Building at 501 Markham St, across Broadway from the previous early voting site, the Pulaski County Courthouse.

Early voting at Jacksonville and Sherwood sites will be weekdays, 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. and Saturdays 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. Saturday, May 17 is the last day of early voting.

At the Pulaski County Regional Building, voters can go weekdays, 8 a.m.- 6 p.m. and Saturdays 10 a.m.-4 p.m. The last day for early voting at this site will be Monday, May 19, from 8 a.m.-5 p.m.

Moving early voting from the Pulaski County Courthouse to the Regional Building will help alleviate overcrowding in the courthouse and also voters won’t have to go through the metal detectors, according to Susan Inman, election coordinator.


In Lonoke County, early voting will be at the Lonoke County Courthouse and in Cabot at the Veterans Park Community Center, according to Larry Clarke, chairman of the Lonoke County Election Commission.

Early voting at the courthouse will be weekdays from 8 a.m.-6 p.m. and Saturdays, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. through Monday, May 19.

Voting at the community center in Cabot will be weekdays from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m.-4 p.m.