Wednesday, March 02, 2016

TOP STORY >> Clinton, Trump sweep state

Leader staff writer

District 34 Sen. Jane English (R-North Little Rock) squeaked by Rep. Donnie Copeland in the Republican primary and will face Democrat Joe Woodson in November.

The quarter of a percent sales tax to expand and improve the county’s bus service was strongly defeated Tuesday by 12,000 votes.

Along the presidential lines, it was Donald Trump, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz finishing one, two, three, with about a 4 percent gap between each.

Hillary Clinton easily defeated Bernie Sanders in her “home” state of Arkansas and Sanders did the same to Clinton in his “home” state of Vermont in the Super Tuesday primary.


Sen. Eddie Joe Williams (R-Cabot) will get another term after besting Lonoke County Justice of the Peace R.D. Hopper. Williams lost Pulaski County by about 100 votes, but won the other three counties his district represents. Williams will have no opposition in November.

Williams got 6,842 votes, or 55.3 percent to Hopper’s 5,531 votes, or 44.7 percent..

“I’m just humbled,” said Williams. “I kind of expected the race to be a little closer. We took the highroad. I think (Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s) en-dorsement was helpful.

Williams said this would be his last term, despite a new law that allows legislators to serve a total of 16 years. He said he had made a commitment to the people.

Hopper said he had no regrets. “I met a lot of great people and friends. (Voters) chose him, and I wish him well,” Hopper said.

Hopper said he will finish out his term as JP. “I don’t know what the future will bring. Time will tell,” he said.

English defeated Copeland, 51 percent to 49 percent, or by about 300 votes after some confusion earlier in the evening. According to the Pulaski County Election Commission, about 1,000 voters did not pick a candidate in this race.

Hutchinson backed both Williams and English.

The final, unofficial tally showed her winning 6,687 votes to 6,365. According to the Pulaski County Election Commission about 1,000 voters didn’t cast a ballot in the race.

There confusion occurred in Sherwood. According to the ballot totals posted on the door of the Jack Evans Senior Center in Sherwood, zero votes were cast in the English-Copeland race, leading to come concern, but Pulaski County Election Director Brian Poe said the center’s votes had been counted properly by the county and were part of the overall total.

Copeland said he started the election count down about 500 votes from early and absentee voting and made up about half of that, but that it looked as though voters had chosen English. She must now gear up for her November opponent.

In another very close race, Democrats Kent Walker and Victoria Leigh, both attorneys, battled for Copeland’s Dist. 38 seat, which includes the southern portion of Sherwood with Leigh coming out on top by fewer than 100 votes. “I’m absolutely thrilled. It was a great race. Now it’s eight long months before the general election where I hope the Democrat prevails,” she quipped.

Leigh, 28, a mother of two young girls, is running because she wants to make a difference. “It’s my first run for political office, but I think that’s a positive. I don’t owe anyone any favors,” she said.

She also sees her legal background as a “valuable” qualification for the representative position.

Leigh will face Carlton Wing, a Republican, in November.

In January 2017 the Jacksonville District Court and the Maumelle District Court will become one and have jurisdiction over all of Pulaski County.

Rita Bailey, currently the Wrightsville and Cammack Village judge, and former state Sen. David Johnson (D-Little Rock) battled for the position with Bailey winning the position. The judicial seat is nonpartisan, so party affiliation is not listed on the ballot. As winner of the primary, Bailey will be the judge for a four-year term.

“I’m elated, totally thrilled,” Bailey said when she found out she had won by about 4,000 votes. “It’s been an exciting race.”

The same law that combined Maumelle and Jacksonville also moved the Wrightsville-Cammack Village judgeship into a Little Rock, so Bailey would have been without a position in January. “I’m looking at this as a blessing and an opportunity to continue doing what I love,” she said.

Bailey, 51, ran on a platform of “experience, fairness and service” and believes the most important trait of a judge is to be “fair, open-minded and to follow the law.”

Two state Supreme Court positions were up for grabs in the primary vote and both received a lot of out-of-state attention. Both state Supreme Court Judge Courtney Goodson and Clark Mason were on the receiving end of negative ads from out-of-state groups and the ads appeared to work as both lost.

Judge Dan Kemp beat Goodson for the chief justice position 59 percent to 41 percent and Circuit Court Judge Shane Womack defeated Mason by a 2-1 margin for an open Supreme Court seat. Interestingly, Womack and Goodson went to law school together.


The bus system, once known as Central Arkansas Transit, now called Rock Region Metro asked for a quarter of a cent increase in sales tax.

“That’s just a quarter for every $100,” said Jarod Varner, the executive director for Rock Region Metro.

The bus group pitched the need for the tax to improve frequencies on important routes, add routes and custom services for Maumelle, Sherwood and Jacksonville.

With 100 percent of the county precinct report, 36,791 voted for that tax increase, but 48,841 voted against it.

John Hofheimer contributed to this report.