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Election preview

Election preview

October 25, 2018

Vol 45 • No 8

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A blue wave in Arkansas?

Dream on, Democrats.

Chintan Desai is trying to turn the Delta blue

Despite long odds, the Democrat challenging U.S. Rep. Rick Crawford means business.

A user's guide to Arkansas ballot issues

The good, the bad and the disqualified.

Tough choice for Little Rock mayor

To date, I've remained neutral in the Little Rock mayor's race for a number of reasons. As I was involved in both independent survey work in the race and in the planning for a series of five mayoral forums, I wanted to wait until after those activities were complete to take any stance. More importantly, I really wanted to watch the campaign play itself out. I wanted to see how the candidates that I know well performed through the pressure of a campaign. In the end, I've decided that Warwick Sabin is best positioned to be the kind of mayor that Little Rock needs at this vital time in our city's history.

Hey ladies

Arkansas is a solidly red state. We are near the bottom and poised to drop even lower in education and life expectancy; but, if white women would stop voting for conservative candidates, we could change that.

State seeks to break agreement with LRSD teachers

Also, Inman left off the ballot and marijuana scoring progress.

Foghorn's Express at Core Public House in Hot Springs offers top-notch healthy and greasy options

It's the best kind of bar food.

Back 40

The Observer right now is, as the old timers used to say, "down in the back." Specifically, it's the lower back, which has us hobbling around The Observatory like the cranky, broken version of Charles Foster Kane after his off-key caged songbird flew the coop.

Time to vote

Early voting has begun and most of the choices are easy on my ballot.

Arkansas Times 2018 Craft Beer Fest preview

Come to Argenta Nov. 2.

Halloween: The Return of French Hill

Rising wages lift all

A minimum wage increase remains on the Arkansas ballot this year. That's good news for Arkansas.

Marquis Hunt & Mood come to South on Main

Also, Yuni Wa is at Vino's.

David Gordon Green successfully reboots 'Halloween'

With scares and believable characters.

Prurient public

It's not for nothing that the most chilling scene in George Orwell's prophetic novel "1984" involves an act of puritanical voyeurism. Secret lovers Winston and Julia are lying together in their hideaway in the London slums when a steely voice comes out of the wall.

Demand more

I want you to think of the three biggest challenges facing Arkansas right now. Take a second and get them in your mind. Anything you come up with is great. Got them?

Bully comes to Stickyz

And more!

Looking forward with the Hogs

Homecoming was ho-hum for Arkansas, but it was a shutout victory, too, and as this agonizing season has worn on, even a fairly uninspired performance by one objectively bad team to oust another means a little around these parts.

New complaints on Little Rock police drug raid tactics; FOP rises in disingenuous defense

Here's an update from KARK/Fox 16 on the news conference yesterday about new plaintiffs in the lawsuit alleging abusive practices by Little Rock police in serving no-knock search warrants for alleged drug suspects. These are serious allegations of questionable conduct that, to date, has drawn little concern from city officials.

Trump blames media after mail bombs

Of course. Donald Trump blamed the media and others for incivility after crude bombs were mailed yesterday to multiple targets of his ire, including CNN, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Maxine Waters and Eric Holder.

Informational picketing today in support of Little Rock teachers; contract negotiations continue

Bad weather for it, but informational picketing  is under way today at Little Rock School District campuses to show support for teachers targeted by State Education Commissioner Johnny Key's desire to make it easier to fire teachers at 22 Little Rock schools with low scores on standardized tests. Meanwhile, less than a week remains to come up with a new contract before the current one expires Oct. 31.

Supreme Court reverses rape conviction on rehearing

The Arkansas Supreme Court today, in a 4-3 decision, reversed itself and reversed the conviction and 40-year sentence of Edward Darnell Rogers for raping three members of a family with whom he had lived in North Little Rock.

Blue Hog report complains about excess contribuitions to Asa Hutchinson

Blue Hog Report has asked the state Ethics Commission to review his finding that the Asa Hutchinson for governor campaign reported excessive contributions from one donor.

Democrat candidate Lee urges loosening federal marijuana law

Mike Lee, the Democratic candidate for attorney general, says he'd sue to loosen federal law on medical marijuana.

5 reasons why Issue 5 is right for the Arkansas community

Issue 5 would help 300,000 Arkansans—a quarter of the state’s workforce— by gradually raising the minimum wage from $8.50 to $11 an hour by 2021. Whether you’re an employee, an employer, or just someone who wants to benefit from a thriving economy, there’s a reason for you to vote for Issue 5.

Re health coverage: Republicans are lying

This isn't exactly a news flash, but the Daily Beast reports here on the audacious dishonesty of Republicans nationwide, including in Arkansas,  in saying that they want to maintain the Affordable Care Act's guarantee of coverage for people with pre-existing conditions (you know, cancer and stuff.)

Thursday: Open line and news roundup

Here's the open line. Also the afternoon headline/comment roundup.

Hutchinson names special justices for Supreme Court ethics case

Gov. Asa Hutchinson today announced the seven people he'd chosen to decide the Arkansas Supreme Court's contest of the finding that they'd violated ethics rules in action they took against Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen.

Another prison death at Tucker Max

For the second time this week, the state Correction Department has announced the death of an inmate at the Tucker Maximum Security unit that has prompted a call for a State Police review.

Hepatitis A outbreak in Northeast Arkansas spreads to Arkansas State University, Salvation Army workers

The state Health Department has issued a warning because a food service worker at Arkansas State University in Jonesboro and a volunteer at the Salvation Army in Jonesboro had tested positive for hepatitis A, a contagious liver disease.

New episode of Out in Arkansas: 'T & A Talk w/ Hints of a Challenge'

Out in Arkansas’s hosts Traci Berry and Angie Bowen talk about all the things because all the things are LGBTQ things. They are briefly joined by Cis Het Neighbor Nick for his rebuttal to Racher the Ninja. Traci and Angie give a Pride Recap and more. Thank you for listening!

A ballot screwup in Washington County omits hot Senate race

Another sign of incompetence in managing elections in Arkansas: The Washington County Election Commission failed to include the state Senate District 4 race on the ballot for Precinct 34 in Fayetteville.

Jan Morgan has a point on Jeremy Hutchinson's appeal for money

Jan Morgan, the gun-waving Trumpican who was soundly defeated by Asa Hutchinson in the Republican gubernatorial primary, isn't ALWAYS off base, as evidenced by her comment on Twitter yesterday about former Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson, facing felony charges related to personal use of campaign money.

Police Chief Kenton Buckner: Willie Makeit to Syracuse?

Will Kenton Buckner make it to Syracuse? There are issues.

Courtney Goodson sues again over attack ads. Opinion: It's a loser

Supreme Court Justice Courtney Goodson has again sued to stop an onslaught of attack advertising by a shadowy group out of Washington. I'm forced to say, slimy as the attack is, it looks legally protected to me.

Arrest reported in case of explosive packages

An arrest has been made in the investigation of the mailing of multiple packages containing explosive devices.

Another sharp contrast between Leslie Rutledge and challenger Mike Lee

The list is long but here's another solid on which to make a choice between re-electing Attorney General Leslie Ruitledge or favoring challenger Mike Lee: Net neutrality.

Tucker's question answered:French Hill has no decency

Democrat Clarke Tucker has issued ads asking Republican Rep. French Hill about his lack of decency after running ads linking Tucker to the MS-13 gang — non-existent by word or deed in Tucker's political life and also non-existent in Arkansas. The answer is in a new Hill ad.

Another week done, another open line

The open line and the daily video roundup of news and comment.

Barack Obama does some truth telling

Barack Obama tells it straight about Donald Trump. He's lying.

Attorney general approves proposal for independent redistricting commission

It's a long way to the finish line, but here's a piece of good political news: Attorney General Leslie Rutledge today approved as submitted a proposed constitutional amendment that would establish an independent citizens commission to draw boundaries of state legislative and congressional districts in Arkansas.

The Assault on Public Education Edition

Max Brantley and Lindsey Millar talk about the latest attack on public education, French Hill’s increasingly grimy campaign against Clarke Tucker and Arkansas Supreme Court Justice Courtney Goodson again trying to block campaign attacks against her in court.

Ira's Restaurant to become Allsopp & Chapple

Lots of mystery in this press release announcing that Ira's, a Main Street restaurant that's only been open since July, is changing its name to Allsopp & Chapple and bringing on a new chef. Unanswered here: What happened to Ira Mittleman, the chef/owner?

Mail bomb suspect spent time in Arkansas, TV station reports

Cesar Sayoc, the suspect in mailing of bombs to various Democrats, had a past that included working as a male dancer in Oklahoma and Arkansas, various news accounts say.

Another bit of dishonesty in the Republican tool chest: ICE

The New York Times reports on a Republican strategy to turn attention from the families separated by Trump immigration policy to scattered calls for the abolition of Immigration Customs and Enforcement. Most Democrats haven't joined this call, but it hasn't stopped Republicans from running on the issue even against declared opponents. Such as Clarke Tucker in Arkansas's 2nd District.

UPDATE: Mass shooting at Pittsburgh synagogue: 11 dead and six wounded

UPDATE: A gunman with a semi-automatic rifle attacked a Pittsburgh synagogue during Saturday morning service, leaving 11 dead and six wounded, including three police officers. Here's the Washington Post report as of 4 p.m.

The depressed open line

Vote. That is all.

Lifting the veil on California spending on legislative races to damage public schools

Billionaire political spending has infected every level of politics, from city hall on up. One example: races for the Arkansas legislature:

Love and hate: In Pittsburgh and in Little Rock

The Pittsburgh synagogue massacre was followed in my email overnight by messages that couldn't be more divergent: One was a call for peace and prayer; the other a call for white nationalism.

Consultant suggests solutions to problems eStem charter school created on UA-Little Rock campus

A private consultant has reported on ways to alleviate problems caused by the arrival of the eStem charter high school on the UA-Little Rock campus. The report says neither institution has realized benefits expected from the partnership to date.

The super money open line: Arkies make the list of top givers

Here's the open line. And, courtesy of the Washington Post, a list of the biggest contributors to elections this year, left and right,  leading with Las Vegas casino magnate Sheldon Adelson and his wife at $112 million. There's an Arkansas angle.

Overflow crowd gathers in support of Little Rock school teachers and public education, but potential strike vote nears

An overflow crowd filled First United Methodist Church last night in support of Little Rock school teachers and, more generally, locally controlled public schools. The issue is bigger than the future of a conract with the Little Rock Education Association.

Leslie Rutledge in national spotlight again. Flattery not intended

John Oliver's punchy weekly news review on HBO last night featured the dubious activities of the Republicans who are attorneys general around the U.S., including Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. Not a shining moment for her, particularly a karaoke clip, though Rutledge probably basks in the criticism of a liberal commentator.

Suit challenges Rep. Laurie Rushing's residency UPDATE

A lawsuit was filed in Hot Spring County today arguing that Rep. Laurie Rushing is not eligible to seek re-election because she has not been a resident of the district.

16,000 sign letter saying Trump not welcome in Pittsburgh unless ....

Some 16,000 people have signed a letter to Donald Trump saying he's not welcome to visit Pittsburgh, site of Saturday's synagogue slaughter, unless he disavows white nationalism and other attacks on minority groups. From the Washington Post:

Children's Hospital will raise its minimum wage to $14 an hour, well beyond proposed amendment

KARK/Fox 16 reports an announcement from Arkansas Children's Hospital that it is increasing its minimum wage from $10.10 to $14 an hour effective Jan. 1.

Another prison death under investigation at Tucker Unit

The state Correction Department said Harrison Flanery, 48, was found unresponsive in his cell Sunday afternoon at the Tucker Unit and pronounced dead shortly after. State Police have been asked to investigate the death.

Miss America exec scheduled for Clinton School talk

Regina Hopper, the Arkansas native who is CEO of the Miss American organization, will speak at 6 p.m. Monday at the Clinton School. Could be fun.

Goodson's suit lands in Judge Miller's court

Supreme Court Justice Courtney Goodson's suit attempting to stop TV attack advertising against her by a Republican special interest group has now landed in federal Judge Brian MIller's court.

Monday: Open line and the day's headlines

An open line for a somber Monday, plus the news and comment.

Police investigating fatal school bus accident

KARK's Mitch McCoy reports that a Pulaski County School District bus accident near Treasure Hill and Towne Oaks Drive in western Little Rock apparently has taken the life of the bus driver.

Assisted living facilities warn 21.7 percent rate cut will force closures

“I’ve seen over the years just how many people have benefited from assisted living. It saved them from going to the nursing home when it wasn’t safe for them to live at home,” Riedel said. The rate cut will push “more and more people into nursing facilities that shouldn’t be there."

Little Rock teacher contract talks extended for two weeks

After talks between the Little Rock Education Association and Little Rock School Superintendent Michael Poore yesterday afternoon, Education Commissioner Johnny Key agreed to a two-week extension of the district teachers' contract, otherwise due to expire Wednesday. I'm not optimistic about a compromise and wish more attention could be placed on the difficulties faced in individual schools.

Report: Minimum wage increase won't harm economy

The corporate lobby thinks the sky will fall if Arkansas voters increase the minimum wage in next week's election. The facts don't bear that out.

Trump suggests attempt to nullify U.S. Constitution — and of course he's going to Pittsburgh today

Donald Trump says he will issue an executive order nullifying birthright citizenship. The U.S. Constitution seems to prohibit this.

Federal panel says Arkansas should slow enforcement of flawed Medicaid work rule

Yet another group of experts says Gov. Asa Hutchinson's enforcement of a work rule for those with Medicaid expansion coverage has been a flop and suggests the state should hold off booting more from coverage. From Bloomberg

Phantom rejection of filing in ethics case is latest Arkansas Supreme Court funny business

What's going on with the Arkanass Supreme Court's contest of the finding they'd violated ethics rules? Good question.

Tuesday: Open line and daily news roundup

The open line and daily video roundup of headlines and comment.

Out-of-state special interest money flows into a race for mayor in Arkansas

I've written before about the Republican State Leadership Committee, which is spending more than a million dollars to elect a fellow Republican, David Sterling, to a nominally nonpartisan seat on the Arkansas Supreme Court over Justice Courtney Goodson. I learned this week that the organization's interest extends down to the mayor of Bentonville.

A new direction for the Arkansas Times

The Arkansas Times will transition from a print weekly to a glossy monthly magazine and relaunch its popular website in February 2019.

Campaign finance reports today include mayoral spending, $850,000 for minimum wage

Seven-day pre-election finance reports are due today and they include the first meaningful reports on money in the race for Little Rock mayor.

Suspect sought in downtown bank robbery

The Little Rock police have distributed this photo of a suspect in a robbery of Simmons Bank at 425 W. Capitol Avenue about 11:30 a.m. today. He indicated he had a gun and ran after taking cash.

New episode of Rock the Culture: ‘Still Making History’

In this week’s episode, Antwan and Charles provide perspective, conversation, and context on the Little Rock Education Association’s contract negotiations with the Little Rock School District/Commissioner Johnny Key and its relationship to the State Board of Education’s takeover of the LRSD. In addition, they interview Terri Hollingsworth, democratic candidate for Circuit Clerk of Pulaski County, regarding her historical race and her vision for the clerk’s office.

Casino group cash investment up to $7 million

Driving Arkansas Forward, the group formed to advocate Issue 4 to expand casino gambling in Arkansas, reported today an additional $2.7 million in contributions to push total contributions for the campaign to more than $7 million. Most of the money has already been committed to advertising.

FOI suit dislodges more documents from Bryant Mayor Jill Dabbs

Lucien Gillham, attorney for Danny Steele in an FOI lawsuit against Bryant Mayor Jill Dabbs, reports more documents detailing complaints against the mayor were dislodged in a hearing today before Circuit Judge Grisham Phillips in Benton.

Corrections needed on City Board candidate's campaign filing UPDATE

Perusing campaign finance filings yesterday, I discovered multiple problems on the report filed by Valerie Tatum, a candidate for Ward 2 on the Little Rock City Board, who already faces questions over her eligibility to run for the seat.

Estate tax bite dwindles to a handful of the super rich

The next time somebody (most often a Republican) invokes the phrase "death tax" I invite you to figuratively cram a copy of this article in the Washington Post down their gullets.

Universities rethinking ties to Saudi Arabia, but all quiet in Arkansas

The killing of a journalist in the Saudi embassy in Turkey has led universities to rethink arrangements with the Saudi Arabian government that have produced some $350 million in spending the last decade, the Associated Press reports. The Saudis have also been involved with higher education in Arkansas.

Suit claims excessive force by Blytheville police left man in vegetative state

A lawsuit filed in Mississippi County circuit court this week alleges a Blytheville man is in a permanent vegetative state because his trachea was crushed by a Blytheville police officer as he reportedly resisted arrest for public intoxication last month.

A midday open line, plus the daily news roundup

Early today with the open line and the day's headlines and comment because I have to be out of the office this afternoon.

Little Rock schools and teachers continue negotiating UPDATE

The Little Rock School District and Little Rock Education Association issued a brief joint statement today affirming that negotiations continue on a new contract to replace one that expires at midnight today.

Wisconsin adopts Medicaid work rule, Trump administration pronounces it good

The Trump administration, to no one's surprise, has approved Wisconsin's plan to require 80 hours of work to get coverage under the Medicaid expansion enabled by Obamacare. As in Arkansas, it's being pitched as a plan to improve health and help people out of poverty.

ACLU joins pay discrimination case arising from women doctors at VA hospital in Little Rock

The ACLU and others have joined the appeal of a federal equal pay lawsuit in which a mere showing of unequal pay for women who were emergency room doctors at the VA hospital in Little Rock wasn't sufficient to establish a claim of discrimination.

No ruling today on Justice Goodson's effort to squelch negative advertising

Federal Judge Brian Miller took under advisement today Supreme Court Justice Courtney Goodson's request for a preliminary injunction to silence TV ads criticizing her and supporting David Sterling for her seat on the court.

Clint Rhoden to lead Arkansas Teacher Retirement

News on new director of Teacher Retirement.

Issue No. 3 no longer on the ballot

Issue No. 3—Arkansas Term Limits Amendment—proposed very important and detrimental changes to the Arkansas Constitution; it sought to impose the strictest term limits in the country. Good citizens of Arkansas should ask themselves, why? Issue No. 3 would have fostered corruption in our legislature by creating high turnover. Fortunately, the Supreme Court of Arkansas recently struck down Issue No. 3, and votes on the matter will not be counted in the upcoming November election.

Golf in Little Rock

Little Rock offers three fantastic golf courses for all levels of skill. Take advantage of the fall weather and get out and enjoy our public parks!