Friday, October 31, 2014

TOP STORY >> Arkansans heading to polls

Voters go to the polls Tuesday to decide who will lead nearly every city in The Leader’s coverage area, as well as which party will control the U.S. Senate as Mark Pryor struggles to keep his seat from Republican challenger Rep. Tom Cotton.

The mayors of Jacksonville, Cabot, Sherwood, Lonoke and Ward are all in contested races. There are also several competitive city council races, as well as other municipal positions that are up for grabs.

Pulaski County saw 50,978 early votes by late Friday. Lonoke County reported record early voting with 7,789, while White County had 6,900 cast ballots. Early voting continues Saturday and ends Monday.

Rep. Rick Crawford (R-Jonesboro) and Heber Springs Mayor Jackie McPherson, a Democrat, are facing off in the First District, which includes Cabot.

In the Second Congressional District, Republican banker French Hill and former North Little Rock Mayor Patrick Hays are vying to replace Rep. Tim Griffin, who is stepping down to run for lieutenant governor.

In the governor’s race, two former congressmen, Republican Asa Hutchinson and Mike Ross, a Democrat, are neck and neck in the polls. Frank Gilbert, a Libertarian, is also in the race.

Democrat John Burkhalter, a Sylvan Hills native and multi-millionaire businessman, is challenging Republican congressman Tim Griffin in the lieutenant governor’s race.

For attorney general, it’s Democrat Nate Steal against Republican Leslie Rutledge and Libertarian Aaron Cash.

At the local level, first-term Cabot Mayor Bill Cypert is trying to fend off former Mayor Mickey (Stubby) Stumbaugh. Cypert has said Stumbaugh caused financial problems for the city and failed to properly manage municipal building projects.

Alderman Angie Jones is facing a double challenge from Wendell Gibson and Doyle Tullos for Ward 3, Position 1. And Ron Waymack and Doug Thompson are grappling for the Ward 4, Position 1.

Jacksonville Mayor Gary Fletcher and former Police Chief Gary Sipes sparred over the city’s finances and the Arkansas Game and Fish Foundation Shooting Complex in a contentious race as Fletcher seeks a third term.

Aldermen Mike Traylor is after a second term, but will have to get past former police and code-enforcement officer Bill Shelley.

In a sleeper race, Jackson-ville City Attorney Bobby Bamburg is facing a rare challenge from his old law partner, Keith Vaughan, who was Jacksonville city attorney in the 1980s while Bamburg was his deputy.

For Pulaski County Judge, Democrat Barry Hyde, Libertarian Glenn Schwartz and Republican Phil Wyrick are angling to step in for longtime County Judge Buddy Villines, who is retiring.

Democrat Sandra Prater and Republican Aaron Robinson are competing for the Dist. 42 justice of the peace seat, which represents Jacksonville and Gravel Ridge.

For the JP Dist. 15 spot, Staci Medlock, a Democrat and a relator, is up against Jesse Macom Teague to represent North Little Rock and Sherwood.

Sherwood Mayor Virginia Hillman trying to fend off two outspoken critics — retired Air Force Col. Don Berry and Doris Anderson. Conducting municipal business openly and financial priorities, with expenses related to the Greens at North Hills, have been key issues in the race.

First-term incumbent Mary Jo Heye is being challenged by former longtime Alderman Butch Davis, who has said he wants back his old Ward 2, Position 1 seat.

Ward 1, Position 1 incumbent Toni Butler is facing Beverly Williams, a retired school administrator who has helped lead the city’s effort to get its own school district by breaking away from the Pulaski County Special School District, now under state supervision.

Also on the ballot in Sherwood is a measure to build a new library by temporarily raising property taxes. If approved, homeowners would pay about $30 more a year for a $150,000 home.

Longtime Sherwood City Clerk Angela Nicholson is in her first election against challenger Stephen Partridge.

Ward Mayor Art Brooke, who said he’d like to serve one more term, is facing off against his perennial challenger Bill Boyd.

Mayor Wayne McGee is up against Jim Bailey in Lonoke, where there are also three competitive aldermen races: Bobby Rhodes versus Norman Evans Jr., Raymond Hatton versus George Gooden and Wendell Walker versus Larry Clark (not outgoing Lonoke County Clerk Larry Clarke).

Austin has one city council race, which was left off some early voting ballots. Rusty Eisenhower and Anthony Fible are seeking the Ward 3, Position 1 seat.

Republican Tate House, a young manager for the South White County Water Authority, and Democrat Johnny Hudspeth, a seasoned realtor, are trying to win the Lonoke County JP Dist. 8 seat to represent the Butlerville area.

In Beebe Ward 1, Position 1 Aldermen Harold Welch is hoping to beat David Pruitt, who owns American Auto and Tire.

Ward 3, Position 2 Alderman Dale Bass is opposed by Warren Spillman, a 32-year-old who holds a business degree from Harding University.

Alderman John Johnson is hoping to retain his Ward 3, Position 1 seat by defeating Matt Dugger.

Republican Karilyn Brown and Democrat Danny Knight are competing for the legislature’s House Dist. 41 seat to represent Sherwood.

In Lonoke, Republican Buddy Fisher of England and Camille Bennett, Lonoke’s city attorney, are vying to replace term-limited Democratic Rep. Walls McCrary in Dist. 14.

For House Dist. 38, which includes North Little Rock and parts of Sherwood, Democratic incumbent Patti Julian will have to beat Republican Donnie Copeland if she is to win a second term.

Issue No. 1 is a proposed amendment to provide for legislative review and approval of state agencies’ administrative rules.

Issue No. 2 is amendment allowing more time to gather signatures on a statewide initiative or referendum petitions only if the petition as originally filed contained at least 75 percent of the valid signatures required.

Issue No. 3 would regulate contributions to candidates for state and local office, barring gifts for state officials and setting term limits for legislators. They would serve a maximum of 16 years in the House and Senate. A citizens committee would also establish salaries for public officials and judges.

Issue No. 4 would allow liquor sales throughout Arkansas with certain restrictions.

Issue No. 5 would increase the Arkansas minimum wage from $6.25 an hour to $7.50 an hour next January, then to $8 in January 2016 and $8.50 in January 2017.