Conway High School Ronny Willhite, Creative Commons

Campaign finance reports filed this week in two Conway School Board races include some interesting evidence of the growing partisanship in nominally nonpartisan elections.

Former board member Bill Milburn has outraised all of the candidates in contributions. His report, filed Monday, put contributions to his campaign for the board’s Zone 5 seat at $13,005, compared to the $12,333.71 raised by his opponent, incumbent Trey Geier.

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Even more interesting are some of Milburn’s donors — among them board member and fellow conservative Linda Hargis who contributed $650. Hargis is the only board member listed as a campaign donor on any of the four candidates’ filings.

Hargis was on the board that appointed Milburn, a fellow conservative, to fill a vacant seat in 2022. When he had to seek election to the seat last year, though, he lost to Geier.

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Milburn has been an outspoken defender of the board’s controversial culture war decisions. He publicly defended the panel’s actions to regulate transgender students’ restroom access and to ban two books even though he wasn’t on the board when it took those actions.

Among Milburn’s other donors were the Republican Women of Faulkner County, which gave $2,000; Republicans of Faulkner County, $500; and Joseph Wood, chairman of the Republican Party of Arkansas, $100.

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Former state Sen. Jason Rapert, a book-ban proponent now on the state library board, gave Milburn $250; state Rep. Mary Bentley (R-Perryville), a proponent of bathroom bills, gave $125; and prominent Conway banker Johnny Allison gave $500.

Geier’s report included contributions from Conway Alderman Andy Hawkins. Geier did not list any political party as a donor.

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In the Zone 4 election, donations to that race’s candidates, incumbent Trip Leach and challenger Ruthann Curry Browne, were also less exciting.

Curry Browne raised a total of $8,851, while Leach took in $5,400. Leach got $1,000 from the Republican Women of Faulkner County and $500 from retired Conway banker Bunny Adcock.

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Early voting is under way. The election is Tuesday.

You can read each candidate’s filings below. (Faulkner County Clerk Margaret Darter said the white pages in Geier’s report were a technical issue and should be ignored.)

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Bill Milburn

Trey Geier

Trip Leach

Ruthann Curry Browne

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