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Battling to retake the 2nd

Battling to retake the 2nd

May 10, 2018

Vol 44 • No 36

Read the print version

Battling to retake Arkansas's 2nd Congressional District

Combs, Dunkley, Tucker and Spencer battle to take on Republican incumbent French Hill in Arkansas's 2nd Congressional District.


The Observer's pal Mr. Photographer is the hardest working man in show business, a one-man operation who handles photography for not only the Arkansas Times but several other publications publicated by the Arkansas Times, plus freelancing and concerts and product photography and probably a secret trove of brilliant and soon-to-be-world-renowned mime portraits that will only be discovered when they lay him in the clay.

Arkansas Times Margarita Festival returns

And much more.

The right voters

An Arkansas jazz crossword puzzle

From 'Treemonisha' to 'I Scare Myself.'

Support the Times, get free stuff

If you are a regular reader of the Arkansas Times online, you will have noticed a change. The Times, like most other publications, has adopted a strategy to help us stay in business: We've extended our paywall. We now limit free views of articles and blog posts in the Times to three a month.

Ways to serve

Last Friday, the statewide newspaper included two prominent headlines about former Arkansas state senators. On the front page was the story of former Sen. Jon Woods' conviction on 15 of 17 counts in a federal public corruption case in Fayetteville, a trial masterfully reported throughout by the veteran Arkansas journalist Doug Thompson. On the front of the Arkansas section was a celebratory obituary observing the death of former Sen. Jim Argue (D-Little Rock) from an aggressive kidney cancer. Two very different headlines about two very different men who happened to hold the same public office.

Alexa's answers the call for pierogis, crepes

It's a special spot in the Spa City.

Politics rule in court

One of the privileges of a columnist is to beat a dead horse, and a recurring liberty of this one is to mourn the decline of the rule of law, which, like nearly everything in the public sphere, is now displaced by politics.

A new centrism

As early voting began this week, economic issues remained the top concern among Arkansas voters.

The Main Thing celebrates its anniversary

Also, Tacos & Tianguis 2018 benefits El Zocalo at Bernice Garden.

Trump under oath? No.

The ongoing made-for-TV spectacle of the Trump administration has more shocks and plot reverses than the most elaborate professional wrestling extravaganza.

Inconsequential News Quiz: Eureka Murderama Edition

Play at home, before taking your $6,501.33 drug test!

Stodola won't run for re-election

Also, bring ID, Woods found guilty and more.

Tom Cotton "has surpassed Ted Cruz as the most disliked member of the Senate"

Fact check: No one is more unlikeable than Ted Cruz.

Judicial campaign ethics group calls dark money attack ad on Justice Courtney Goodson "false and misleading"

A nonprofit group devoted to monitoring judicial campaigns issued a letter yesterday to right-wing dark money group stating that its ads were "false and misleading" and calling on the group to either present evidence backing the claims made or withdraw the ads.

Attorney general rejects another ballot initiative, court challenge looms

Attorney General Leslie Rutledge's ballot-initiative blockade will soon be heading to court. Rutledge herself has been subpoenaed to testify; the attorney general's office is fighting that subpoena.

Populism and pigs: Jan Morgan slams Asa Hutchinson over hog farm permit

Let the manure flow.

An Arkansas jazz crossword puzzle: the answer key

Did the Arkansas jazz crossword puzzle in last week's issue stump you? If so, here are the answers.

Ohio overwhelmingly passes initiative to re-do redistricting; Couch says poll shows support for similar measure in Arkansas

Could a similar measure pass in Arkansas? Little Rock attorney David Couch thinks so.

Supreme Court justice offers sharp words for state attorney in sovereign immunity case

"You are supposedly running a nursing home for veterans, and you’re saying the people that care for them can be underpaid for the state and have nothing [they can] do," Justice Jo Hart told the state's attorney.

Thursday's headlines and your open line

Attorney general rejects another ballot initiative, court challenge looms; Judicial campaign ethics group calls dark money attack ad on Justice Courtney Goodson "false and misleading"; Hall High teacher arrested on multiple counts of rape, incest.

Casino group joins lawsuit against Leslie Rutledge over ballot-initiative blockade

Another group joins the lawsuit against the attorney general. Will she be forced to testify?

Remembering Rep. Trevor Drown's cultural crusade against Arkansas Tech

The Democrat-Gazette's endorsement of Trevor Drown this morning didn't mention his attempt in 2017 to strip funding from Arkansas Tech due to a sex education event that offended him.

Judicial campaign watch group sends cease-and-desist letter to dark money group over misleading ads

The nonpartisan Arkansas Judicial Campaign Conduct and Education Committee was formed in 2016 to offer information about judicial elections and provide a balance to the big-dollar negative advertising from dark money and outside groups. They've had plenty to keep them busy. As we reported yesterday, the group's rapid response team sent a letter to Judicial Crisis Network, a right-wing advocacy group based in D.C., stating that its attacks on Supreme Court Justice Courtney Goodson were "false and misleading."

Paul Spencer releases ad on rural broadband

Another video from the Paul Spencer campaign is out today, this time on rural broadband. Spencer, running in the Democratic primary for the Second Congressional District, has a Berniecrat's instincts for his progressive pitch: No frills, numbers-heavy, professorial, wonky.

Little Rock gets grant to upgrade tennis courts in city parks

The Little Rock Parks Department has received $20,000 in grants from the United States Tennis Association to refurbish tennis courts in two city parks. $10,000 will go toward courts in Allsopp Park and $10,000 will go toward courts in Reservoir Park.

Sovereign immunity, amending the constitution, and the attorney general's power

Sometimes the news has a funny way of converging.

Arkansas Baptist College receives "delayed" federal funds, will be able to make April payroll

Arkansas Baptist College, the historically black college in Little Rock that has periodically struggled to make payroll for years, announced today that it has received federal funds that will it allow it meet payroll for April.

Samantha's again wins the Arkansas Times Second Annual Margarita Fest

Congratulations to Samantha's Tap Room & Wood Grill for winning the Arkansas Times Second Annual Margarita Festival presented by Don Julio Tequila last night. The Pizzeria was the runner-up. Thanks to the 600 people who came out to the sold-out event, proceeds of which benefited the Downtown Partnership.

Community corrections administrator earned over $250K in side job, legislative audit finds

The report says DCC Chief Deputy Kevin Murphy received over $204,000 in salary and another $49,000 in reimbursements and insurance benefits from serving as the executive director of the Arkansas Association of Correctional Employees Trust, or AACET, while he was also earning an average of $97,804 annually in his administrator position at DCC from 2014 to 2017.

Walmart settles with labor activists in California

As the Walmart turns...

No Small Talk, Ep. 15: Rah Howard, Trust Tree, Spa-Con, "White Material"

This week on "No Small Talk," the arts and entertainment podcast for the Arkansas Times, Omaya Jones and Stephanie Smittle talk with videographer/musician Rah Howard about his new album, "Let There Be Light," round up some entertainment news in the area and look forward to the next film in the Arkansas Times Film Series, Claire Denis' "White Material."

Fundraiser in Conway for the Buffalo River Watershed Alliance

The Buffalo River Watershed Alliance, the nonprofit that has been at the front lines of the ongoing fight against the placement of a large hog harm five miles upstream from the Buffalo National River, is hosting a fundraising event on June 3 at the Almost Famous Smokehouse and Grill in Conway.

Friday's headlines and your open line

Judicial campaign watch group sends cease-and-desist letter to dark money group over misleading ads; Community corrections administrator earned over $250K in side job, legislative audit finds; Little Rock gets grant to upgrade tennis courts in city parks; 2018 Margarita Festival winner: Samantha's Tap Room & Wood Grill.

The Leslie Rutledge Sovereign Immunity Trap Edition

The Democratic primary for the 2nd Congressional District, sovereign immunity and Leslie Rutledge and the Little Rock mayoral race — all covered on this week's podcast.

Dean Elliott channels Donald Trump

"Dean Elliott wants to do for Arkansas what President Trump has done for America."

West Little Rock in the dark

Nearly 6,000 are without power in West Little Rock.

Saturday open line

Tell us something good. 

Power outage in Little Rock again

Mother's Day by candlelight?

When Mother's Day was Mothers' Day

Recommended Sunday listening.

Open line from another mother

Don't let your babies grow up to be cowboys.

New York Times reports from Arkansas on 2nd Congressional District race

Big splash for Clarke Tucker in the New York Times: "To many Democratic leaders, the path to power in Washington looks like Clarke Tucker."

Judge Kenneth Hixson responds to Judicial Crisis Network's dark-money attacks

The latest slime from the Judicial Crisis Network is an attack ad on State Court of Appeals Judge Kenneth Hixson. The Willie Horton genre has come to Arkansas judicial races. It's disgusting.

Billionaires like Warren Stephens stung that Trump tax cut was insufficiently generous to hedge funds

Billionaires bummed that Trump didn't give bigger windfalls to hedge funds are threatening to withhold campaign cash from the GOP this midterm.

Supreme Court decision paves way for states to legalize sports betting

In a 6-3 decision, the justices struck down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, which prohibited states — with the exception of Nevada — from authorizing sports gambling.

Poor People's Campaign at state Capitol

The Arkansas Poor People's Campaign is streaming live from the state Capitol on its Facebook page as the national Poor People's Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival kicks off today in states across the nation.

Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson in default on business loan

Centennial Bank of Conway says the senator owes a balance of about $30,000.

Trump administration won't grant exemptions to Native Americans for Medicaid work requirements

Tribal leaders have appealed to the Trump administration for exemptions to Medicaid work requirements but been rebuffed.

Ark. Supreme Court justice sues to block TV stations from airing 'defamatory' ads from dark money group

Goodson's suit, filed in Pulaski County circuit court on Monday, calls the JCN's advertising "false, misleading, and defamatory." It's been assigned to Judge Chris Piazza and a hearing has been set for 10 a.m. this Friday.

Monday's headlines and your open line

Judge Kenneth Hixson responds to Judicial Crisis Network's dark-money attacks; Billionaires like Warren Stephens stung that Trump tax cut was insufficiently generous to hedge funds; Poor People's Campaign kicks off at state Capitol.

Judge orders DHS to stop using algorithm for home care hours; DHS says services won't be disrupted

Griffen determined that DHS failed to comply with the state Administrative Procedures Act when it created a new, algorithm-based method of determining the number of home care hours received by each beneficiary. He also rejected a sovereign immunity defense.

Governor announces $378,000 grant for cybersecurity curriculum at Jacksonville High

Graduating students will be able to complete a certification along with their high school diploma.

Rock Region METRO local and express buses will be fare free on Election Day

Rock Region METRO is hosting a fare-free Election Day promotion "to help remove potential transportation barriers for area voters," it announced in a press release. All rides on all METRO Local and Express buses will be free on Election Day later this month, Tuesday, May 22.

Judge orders TV stations to stop airing 'false' ads in Supreme Court race

"JCN advertising are false and continued publication of such ads demonstrate the Defendants’ reckless disregard for whether the ad is true or false. All of which constitutes actual malice on the part of the Defendants," Martin wrote.

Wendell Griffen rules that Leslie Rutledge has to testify in challenge to her ballot-initiative blockade

Unless a last-minute reprieve comes in from the Supreme Court, Rutledge will have to explain herself in court on the subject of ballot initiatives on Friday. Get the popcorn.

Leslie Rutledge again rejects ballot proposal to increase minimum wage

Speaking of the attorney general's ballot blockade...

Laura Miller tapped as superintendent of Hot Springs National Park

The National Park Service announced that Laura Miller, currently the acting superintendent of the Buffalo National River, has been selected to be the superintendent of Hot Springs National Park.

$1 million for the Bradbury Museum at ASU

The Windgate Charitable Foundation of Siloam Springs, which has awarded many millions of dollars to Arkansas universities in the past several years to advance the arts, has made a grant of $1 million to the Bradbury Art Museum at Arkansas State University in Jonesboro.

After federal raid, Buzzfeed finds Arkansas arms company was searching for napalm

Earlier this month, for unknown reasons, the company was searched by investigators from the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and Homeland Security Investigations, which is the criminal investigation arm of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Your headlines and open line for Tuesday

Your headlines for May 15, 2018: Wendell Griffen rules that Leslie Rutledge has to testify in challenge to her ballot-initiative blockade; Leslie Rutledge again rejects ballot proposal to increase minimum wage; Judge orders TV stations to stop airing 'false' ads in Supreme Court race; Rock Region METRO local and express buses will be fare free on Election Day; Laura Miller tapped as superintendent Of Hot Springs National Park & Bob Ballinger's ties to the Ecclesia College scandal.

Shannon Hills mayor arrested

Shannon Hills Mayor Mike Kemp has been arrested for burglary and theft of property and taken into custody, several news outlets are reporting.

On live film scoring, and the ASO's "Raiders of the Lost Ark: In Concert"

The "Raiders" score is such a democratic score, too; over its course, each section has a very memorable, important moment — even if the first thing we think about when recalling the score to the film is the horn fanfare in the 'Raiders March.'

Court of Appeals race draws yet another attack ad funded by outside group

The ad is paid for by the Republican State Leadership Committee, a 527 political organization. Judicial elections are supposed to be nonpartisan, but that doesn't stop an outside group from spending big in a race, as long it's kept independent of the candidate's official campaign.

Little Rock police officer accused of inappropriate behavior

KARK reports on an Internal Affairs investigation into a Little Rock police officer accused of inappropriate behavior.

Pay bump approved for elected officials

The Independent Citizens Commission officially approved a 3-percent pay bump for all constitutional officers, judges, prosecutors and lawmakers yesterday. The total cost of the raises will be $1.2 million annually.

Trial begins for Conway doctor accused of sexually assaulting patients

Robert Rook faces 16 counts of sexual assault.

Blue island: A progressive primary in Arkansas

Since many of the primaries we cover are of the small choice in rotten apples variety, how about a peek at a blue island in the red sea. The race for House District 86 features two impressive candidates, University of Arkansas professor Nicole Clowney and Fayetteville City Council member Mark Kinion.

DHS set to introduce emergency rule on ARChoices at legislative meeting Thursday

DHS says it must seek an emergency rule to ensure continuity in the program. But Legal Aid of Arkansas disagrees, saying the agency's warnings of loss of services are "totally concocted."

Supreme Court TV ad fight gets messier as Fayetteville judge's impartiality questioned

The unusual situation in Arkansas's Supreme Court race is beginning to attract attention from outside the state. Even before news broke of Martin's potential conflict, some questioned the judge's decision to grant a temporary restraining order before hearing the merits of the defamation claim.

Ecclesia took out $1 million loan in February 2017, backed by properties bought with GIF help

According to county property records, Ecclesia College took out a $1 million loan from Centennial Bank on February 28, 2017. The loan was backed by two properties that Ecclesia had purchased in 2013. Those properties were aided by nearly $700,000 in public General Improvement Fund (GIF) money, directed by ten legislators in 2013 and 2014.

A senator's vanity

Spotted in Little Rock...

LR Air Force Base may be used to house immigrant children after Trump border policy takes effect

The Washington Post reports that Little Rock Air Force Base is one of four military installations that may be used as temporary housing for children removed from their families due to the Trump administration's plans to begin indiscriminately prosecuting all illegal border crossings.

Your midweek headlines and open line

Ecclesia took out $1 million loan in February 2017, backed by properties bought with GIF help; DHS set to introduce emergency rule on ARChoices at legislative meeting Thursday & the Supreme Court TV ad fight gets messier as Fayetteville judge’s impartiality questioned.

Last call at Esse, Hot Springs; N. Scott found; new show at Gallery 26

Here's a roundup of exhibitions that are closing this weekend, plus some continuing and new shows:

Rep. Jana Della Rosa disputes that Randell Shelton's Paradigm Consulting was a "bogus company"

During the trial of former state Sen. Jon Woods and consultant Randell Shelton, the prosecution described Shelton's Paradigm Strategic Consulting as a "bogus company." But Rep. Jana Della Rosa, who paid Paradigm in 2014 for help with campaign messaging, said that Shelton did legitimate work for her.

ACLU says judge's order stopping 'dark money' ads is unconstitutional

“Judges should not be in the business of policing what can and cannot be said in a political campaign," ACLU of Arkansas Director Rita Sklar said

Senate votes to overturn FCC, reinstate net neutrality

While it probably doesn't matter given the makeup of the U.S. House of Representatives, the U.S. Senate voted 52-47 today to reinstate "net neutrality" regulations that keep service providers from deciding what you can and can't access on the internet.

UAPB to get record gift for sports facilities

Simmons First National Bank will make a "multimillion-dollar gift" to the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff for its football and sports facilities, the bank and UAPB announced today.

Friendship charter school clears first hurdle for 2018 start date in Little Rock

LRSD Superintendent Mike Poore opposed the amendment from Friendship, which includes a compressed timeline for opening a campus in 2018-19. "All these charters always say they’re going to collaborate with the Little Rock district, but they’ve never reached out," he said.

Murder suspect re-captured two months after accidental release, but questions remain

How did a man charged with capital murder walk free from a maximum security state prison while still awaiting trial? A simple communications failure, apparently.

3rd Friday in Argenta means Art Walking

There's new public art in Argenta that celebrates the North Little Rock's once-hated, now-embraced moniker "Dogtown." The sculpture was designed by Terry Bean and fabricated of steel. The Argenta Arts Foundation provided the photo above, plus information on tonight's art offerings, 5-8 p.m. on Main Street: