Friday, November 05, 2010

TOP STORY > >GOP widening party influence in two counties

By john hofheimer
Leader senior staff writer

When Doug Erwin is sworn in Jan. 1, a Republican will be Lonoke County judge for the first time in at least 50 years and Republicans will hold an 8-5 majority in the Lonoke County Quorum Court as well.

With 58 percent of the votes, Erwin beat four-term incumbent County Judge Charlie Troutman in Tuesday’s general election.

Technically, the Republicans have had a 7-6 advantage on the quorum court for the last two years, though many complain that Republican JP Larry Odom has voted more often with the Democrats.

“We all know that Larry has always strongly supported (County Judge Charlie Troutman), even when the Republicans were on the other side. He never voted with us on what we thought was a principled issue,” said Republican JP Mark Edwards.

But when Republican Joe Farrer beat the Dist. 1 incumbent, Jodie Troutman, Republicans opened up a significant advantage, according Edwards.


Those and other Republican gains were part of the juggernaut that turned aside Democratic incumbents and hopefuls alike across the county, the state and the nation.

“This is the culmination of 20 years work,” said former state Rep. Randy Minton, a long-time leader of Eagle Forum wing of the Republican Party—or as he likes call it, “the conservative wing of the conservative party.”

“We got some good people elected,” he said.

He mentioned Eddie Joe Williams as state senator, the re-election of state Rep. Davy Carter, the election of Erwin as Lonoke County judge and the election of Rick Crawford to Congress, replacing the retiring Marion Berry.
“This is the first time since Reconstruction we have a Republican congressman (in the First District),” Minton said. “With 44 Republican House members and 14 state senators, it’s going to be a different day in the state legislature,” Minton predicted.


When the redistricting (following the 2010 census) takes place, it’s possible that in 2012 Republicans will be the majority party in the state legislature, he said. All 35 Senate seats will be up for reelection because of redistricting.

But in Lonoke, both Edwards and long-time JP Mike Dolan, D-England, say they think the county’s business will be conducted about the same as it has been in recent years.

“Business is business,” Dolan said Thursday. “I told that to (Erwin) and I meant it. Everybody works together.”

On the other hand, “I don’t really think Charlie (Troutman) is the leader he was years back, Edwards said. There has been animosity between (Troutman and) us.”

Edwards said he had talked to Erwin. “Immediately, what we’re talking about, I would love to see, countywide, putting together a package of industrial possibilities and provide that to the state to actively seek industry. Doug or Charlie isn’t the key to that happening.”

He said Republicans on the quorum court may want to talk about county employee health insurance issues.

“Some say we need to do more on county roads. Do we ask voters to reapportion the county’s portion of the one-cent sales tax?” Edwards said.


Edwards said he thought Assessor Jerry Adams might have lost because of the controversy over his “double dipping,” that is retiring, collecting retirement and staying on the job pulling his salary.

“Jerry hasn’t done anything poorly, people really weren’t happy,” Edwards said.

County Treasurer Karol DePriest, who also “double dipped,” didn’t have an opponent. Edwards said, “I think she does a wonderful job.”

Denise Brown, a Republican, turned Circuit Clerk Deborah Oglesby out of office. “Ms. Brown worked in the prosecutors office,” Dolan said. “She’s good with the paperwork. I think she’ll do okay. I thought Oglesby was very capable.”

Interim Prosecutor Will Feland, a Democrat, ineligible as an appointee to succeed him- self. Voters put that job back in Republican hands, electing former Deputy Prosecutor Chuck Graham.


Democrats Adam Sims, Dist. 7; Sonny Moery, Dist. 9; Bill Ryker, Dist. 10, and Dolan, Dist. 11 all ran without opposition.

Republicans H.L. Lang, Dist. 12; Tim Lemons, Dist. 4, and Barry Weathers, Dist. 5, also ran unopposed in both the primary and general elections.

All other Republican incumbents had to win primary battles, but were unopposed in Tuesday’s general election.

In Dist. 2, Republican incumbent Janette Minton beat her 18-year-old challenger, Gage B. Gilliam.

In Dist. 3, Odom beat back a challenge by Warren D. Leill in the primary.

Dist. 6 JP Alexis Malham beat challenger Trent Eilts in the primary.

In Dist. 13, Edwards beat former JP Kenny Ridgeway in the Republican primary.

In the only Democratic justice of the peace primary race, Dist. 8 JP Roger Lynch beat Richard Kyzer. Kyzer is a former quorum court member who moved out of his district.


In Pulaski County, Judge Buddy Villines, a Democrat, was reelected without opposition. But Republicans increased their numbers from four justices of the peace to seven.

Jim Servello defeated incumbent Kathy Lewison, Republican Paul Elliott beat long-time incumbent Charles Roberson and Republican Seane Stacks beat Democrat Brad Hughes for the open seat currently held by Steve Goss.

There were no changes among Jacksonville area JPs, with Rev. Robert Green, Bob Johnson and Jeff Rollins all re-elected.

Villines said the pickup in Republican seats probably wouldn’t make much difference. He said the JPs don’t usually vote along straight party lines.

Former Jacksonville-area JP Dennis Sobba, who has been Hill Township constable for the past several years, lost that position to Republican Rick Scott, losing by 474 votes out of the 41,561 cast.