Friday, July 15, 2011

EDITORIAL >>Bring back O’Brien

Another week, another baffling escapade by Secretary of State Mark Martin.

The previous week Martin had issued a news release bragging that he had not spent all the secretary of state’s budget for the fiscal year that ended June 30—something achieved by every constitutional officer every single year for a long time. His savings paled beside those of Governor Beebe, who saved 25 percent of his budget but who didn’t issue a news release about it.

Thursday, Martin an-nounced that he had drawn up a legislative redistricting plan that created a House of Representatives district in northwest Arkansas where Hispanics would be in a clear majority and able to elect a Hispanic to the House. The secretary of state is a member of the Board of Apportionment but an ineffectual one. The reapportionment decisions will be made by the other two members, the governor and attorney general.

A couple of weeks earlier, Martin had ridiculed the idea of creating a Hispanic district. A “non-starter,” he said. He would not support a plan that gave Hispanics a House seat.

It was thought that creating a district favorable to Hispanics would be highly unpopular in Republican northwest Arkansas, his home, where the growing Hispanic population is widely hated. Martin had capitalized on the anti-immigrant fervor when he was in the legislature and running for state office.

But the idea became popular in some Republican quarters. It was a way to collect Hispanics in one district and dilute their vote in other districts, thus protecting Republican seats. So Martin decided to get ahead of that small pack by touting his own plan to create a Hispanic district. His political antenna failed him. It is still a highly unpopular idea in Republican precincts.

It is all immaterial. Gov. Beebe and Attorney General Dustin McDaniel will draw the districts and they will pay no attention to creating a Hispanic district. They will adopt a plan that protects as many incumbent legislators as possible and help Democrats to the small extent that is possible.

What Mark Martin thinks or wants does not matter. Sadly, that is becoming true about everything. To think that we might have had—and very nearly did have—the circumspect, efficient and boring Pat O’Brien in the office, doing what is supposed to be done and not embarrassing himself or us. —Ernie Dumas