Leader Blues

Saturday, January 23, 2010

TOP STORY >> O達rien kicks off his campaign for secretary of state

By GARRICK FELDMAN
Leader executive editor

Pulaski County Clerk Pat O達rien of Jacksonville kicked off his campaign for secretary of state at the Capitol on Wednesday, promising to make the same improvements he brought to the county clerk痴 office over the past five years.

O達rien said he値l campaign on his success as county clerk. Until his election in 2004, the office was seen as inefficient and outdated, lacking accurate voter registration records.

He cited the changes he made as county clerk. O達rien said he put 殿 team together to clean up that mess.

的知 very proud to say that after five years in office, we have taken what was once a perennial embarrassment and a train wreck and turned it into a point of pride around Arkansas.

展hen I took over as county clerk, they had a 19th Century model, he said. 溺ost employees didn稚 have access to the Internet. In five years, we turned ourselves into a 21st Century model.

He said he could do for the secretary of state痴 office 努hat we have done in the clerk痴 office.

O達rien said, 典he secretary of state痴 office is very important. He is the chief election official.

The office is responsible for voter records and must be modernized to avoid election disputes.

的n 2000, we could easily have had what happened in Broward County (Florida), he warned.

O達rien wants redistricting done more in the open so that voters know who will represent them in the Arkansas Legislature when districts are redrawn.

He said he痴 raised more than $100,000 for the campaign and asked his supporters to spread the word about the race.

Secretary of State Charlie Daniels is term-limited and is running for state auditor.

O達rien faces two Democrats in the May 18 primary Land Commissioner Mark Wilcox and Sebastian County Clerk Doris Tate. Rep. Mark Martin of Prairie Grove is running as a Republican.

的知 really optimistic about what we can do, O達rien told cheering supporters at the Capitol rotunda.

的 can win this primary in May and win this election in November and take office in January, he added.

He thought there might be a runoff between the two top Democratic candidates on June 9.

Several Jacksonville supporters were at the campaign event, including Rep. Mark Perry, former Rep. Pat Bond and her husband Tommy, Alderman Kenny Elliott, attorney Ben Rice, Ivory Tillman of the NAACP, builder Jim Green and others.

O達rien also has several family members in attendance, including his mother, Gladys, and brother Jim.

The candidate said his family credits Jacksonville for the many opportunities they found after moving here from Iowa. The

O達riens opened Jacksonville痴 first McDonald痴 on Main Street in 1973.

He worked there as a young man and graduated from Jacksonville High School in 1988, going on to the University of Arkansas and graduating from its law school in 1995.

O達rien practiced law in Jacksonville and served on the Pulaski County Special School District痴 school board and then ran as a reform candidate for Pulaski County clerk.

溺y parents taught me to work hard and give back, O達rien said.

He was one of the first Democrats to endorse Sen. Barack Obama for president and helped open his headquarters in downtown Little Rock.

O達rien, who was a delegate to the Democratic convention in 2008, was the only elected Democratic official in the state to support Obama.

The delegation supported Hillary Clinton until they were released from backing her when Obama痴 nomination became a foregone conclusion.

O達rien campaigned for Obama in Iowa and Texas.