Pulaski County will have a vigorously contested race for county judge this year.
Republican Phil Wyrick, an unsuccessful candidate against Democrat Buddy Villines six years ago, told me that he’ll be filing this afternoon. Villines is retiring. Former legislator Barry Hyde of North Little Rock will run as a Democrat. Glen Schwarz, a perennial candidate, is running as a Libertarian.
Wyrick, a Mabelvale rancher, is a former state legislator (Democrat originally) and headed the Livestock and Poultry Commission for five years by appointment from Gov. Mike Huckabee. He’s also married to Little Rock City Director B.J. Wyrick. I told him I’d say — sincerely — that she was probably the top item on his resume. I suggested maybe she should run for county judge.
Wyrick, 64, will again talk fiscal conservatism. He said he remains committed to protection of the Lake Maumelle watershed and credits his last campaign for pushing Villines toward the successful drive for land use ordinances for the region. He acknowledges the need for more jail beds. But he’s not ready to talk about specific ideas for paying them. I also couldn’t get him to comment on the private option battle before the legislature. He said it wasn’t relevant. I think it is. Every recipient of state aid — and that includes the county turnback fund — will have to look around nervously if the Medicaid expansion is killed and expected state revenue is reduced.
Wyrick is the Republican representative on the County Election Commission. He claims credit for a recent move by the commission to seek an attorney general’s opinion on how to handle absentee votes submitted without ID required under the new voter ID law. He also noted he and Democratic members agreed to follow the attorney general’s advice on the issue (that the law contains no cure for incomplete ballots) although that differs from the opinion given by Republican Secretary of State Mark Martin. He offered this as one example of his not being a doctrinaire type. Wyrick said he was not looking for a stepping stone, but public service.
Pulaski County is generally viewed as a favorable ground for Democratic candidates. Wyrick wonders if Schwarz’s presence — he’s a long proponent of marijuana decrminalization — might siphon votes from the Democratic candidate in a year when marijuana legalization could be on the ballot. Wyrick opposes decriminalization.