The D-G reports this morning that state Sen. Jason Rapert objected to the appointment of Linda Tyler to the state Parole Board, leading Gov. Mike Beebe to withdraw the nomination. Rapert and Tyler, a former state representative, faced off in the 2012 election for the Senate District 35 seat, a contentious, no-love-lost race (see above for some vintage Rapert telling the crowd “that’s one lady Democrat that don’t need to come back to Little Rock”). By tradition, gubernatorial appointments requiring senate approval can be vetoed by the senator of the nominee’s home district, though such vetoes are exceedingly rare. A senator has objected to a nominee just three times over the duration of Beebe’s term — two of them by Rapert in the last year.
“I’m very disappointed,” Tyler told me by phone. “I felt like that would be a place I could continue to serve.”
Rapert claimed that he objected to Tyler’s appointment because of concerns from local law enforcement officials and Tyler’s support for Act 570, which reformed the state’s sentencing laws. Tyler pointed out that Rapert himself voted for Act 570; Rapert says that he was not present when he was recorded as voting for it.
“I really think that the excuse that Jason uses of Act 570 is made up, frankly,” Tyler said. “I do believe that if you check with the folks involved in law enforcement and the judges who were in our district at the time, they will tell you that I included them significantly in the process…While there are still some issues in our state—we haven’t solved all the problems with corrections and probation and parole—certainly we went a long way toward trying to rectify several of the issues we had with public safety with Act 570. I’m proud of that record and I’m proud of my involvement with law enforcement.”
Tyler said that she viewed Rapert blocking her appointment as pure political payback. ““I’m very disappointed that he would choose to allow petty politics to get involved in my opportunity to serve,” she said.
Tyler said that if her appointment was given a floor vote on the Senate, she believed “the majority of the senators would see through this and would confirm me.” That said, she said she understood the governor’s decision to defer to Rapert’s veto. “I do believe that traditions in our governmental bodies are important,” she said. “I’m honored that the governor would consider me and certainly respect his decision.”
In this morning’s paper, Michael Wickline does a nice job digging up just how rare this kind of senatorial veto is. Beebe had dealt with just one prior to Rapert Madness, in 2011; prior to that it hadn’t happened since 2003, when then-Sen. Sue Madison objected to Gov. Mike Huckabee‘s appointment of Bill Ackerman to the Game and Fish Commission after Madison had surved a tough campaign against Ackerman’s wife.
Rapert’s objection to Tyler is his second, after blocking the appointment of Kathryn Ann Spinks to the Arkansas State Occupational Therapy Examining Committee last June. Rapert never gave a good explanation of why he blocked Spinks, a registered nurse from Conway, leading to speculation that it was politically motivated (Spinks was active in the Faulkner County Democratic Party and supported Tyler).
Hendrix politics professor Jay Barth, himself a former candidate for senate, noted that the Rapert gambit could represent a new, more politically aggressive approach to gubernatorial appointments:
I asked Tyler whether she though other senators would start taking the Rapert approach.
“It just remains to be seen,” she said. “I do hope that we can get back to making decisions based on what’s best for our state rather than what’s best for our politics, but that’s not where we are right now.”