Friday, May 23, 2014

EDITORIAL>>How voters did Tuesday

Back when Arkansas was a one-party state, Democratic primaries were tantamount to election because no Republican would challenge Democrats in the fall. In Lonoke County and many parts of the state, it’s the Republicans who are in the catbird seat as they face no Democrats in November.

Several local Republicans were elected in Tuesday’s primary, including Lonoke County Sheriff John Staley, who avoided a runoff after coasting to victory against former Sheriff Jim Roberson and deputy Steve Finch. Staley, 34, is still in his first term, but his focus on fighting crime and reaching out to inmates to turn their lives around has impressed voters.

A recent series in The Leader showed Staley understands the job. He’s tough but fair and about the same age as the inmates. They speak the same language: The sheriff tells them to straighten out their lives and hopes he’ll never see them again.

Many of Staley’s arrests will likely be judged by Ashley Parker of Carlisle, who defeated attorney Larry Cook of Cabot for circuit judge in Dist. 23, Division 3.

Republican Tim Lemons, who serves on the Lonoke County Quorum Court, won more votes than Darlene Byrd for the state representative Dist. 43 position held by outgoing House Speaker Davy Carter. Lemons garnered 1,728 votes to Byrd’s 1,091. Byrd had received former Gov. Mike Huckabee’s endorsement, but it didn’t do her much good.

For the Dist. 14 state representative seat, Republican Buddy Fisher nearly doubled up on Trent Eilts, 1413 to 777. Fisher will face Lonoke City Attorney Camille Bennett, a Democrat, in November.

A bigger surprise was Lonoke County Clerk Larry Clarke, a Republican losing to former Democrat-turned-Republican County Clerk Dawn Porterfield, 3,253-3,001. Clarke, who has denied all charges, was arrested the week before the primary for cyberbullying an online critic who had posted some harsh comments about the county clerk on her blog. Clarke’s legal troubles may have influenced at least some of those 252 voters who helped Porterfield win this time.

There will be a runoff for Assessor Jack McNally, who finished second in a three-way race with Jerrel Maxwell, who finished first, and Marsha Beck, who came in third. It will be her supporters who could decide who the next assessor will be.