Wednesday, November 05, 2014

EDITORIAL >> GOP sweeps into office

It’s taken Arkansas Republicans almost 50 years to get here, flipping the state away from Democrats and joining the rest of the South solidly in the GOP column.

The Republican march through Dixie started with Winthrop Rockefeller’s election as governor and John Paul Hammerchmidt’s congressional victory in 1966. Rockefeller lost four years later, but Hammerschmidt, the lone Republican in the congressional delegation for a long time, stayed in office for a quarter century, paving the way for a GOP takeover across the state in 2014.

Governor-elect Asa Hutchinson, who held Hammerschmidt’s seat in northwest Arkansas but failed to win a statewide election until now, and Senator-elect Tom Cotton, a first-term congressman, can thank their predecessors, who were often a lonely lot, for yesterday’s landslide.

Sen. Mark Pryor was the most vulnerable of the Democratic senators up for re-election. As the campaign wound down, he was given only a 10 percent of winning on several polling sites.

The Pryor family dynasty comes to an end after 54 years. David and Mark Pryor have held office in Arkansas since 1960, when David was first elected to the state House of Representatives. They were both out of office for only two years when they couldn’t secure their party’s nomination. David was elected to Congress in 1966 for three terms, but lost to Sen. John McClellan in 1972 in the Democratic primary.

David made a comeback in 1974, becoming governor twice before running for the Senate in 1978, a year after McClellan died in office, having served from 1943-1977.

Mark Pryor lost to Attorney General Winston Bryant in the Democratic primary in 1994 but won two years later, continuing his meteoric rise to the Senate in 2002 and 2008.

But that’s ancient history. Tuesday was a virtual sweep for the Arkansas GOP, helping Republicans retake the U.S. Senate.

Apart from the statewide alcohol proposal, which was soundly defeated, the ballot initiatives did surprisingly well, especially the minimum wage increase, which cruised to an easy victory.

Voters may have been confused about Issue 1, calling for more legislative oversight of state agencies, along with ethics reform, which will also mean extending term limits to 16 years, as well as Issue 2, making it more difficult to put issues on the ballot. That may not be a bad idea, since several of these initiatives were meant to mislead voters.

The Republican trend continued with French Hill’s election to represent the Second District in Congress, as expected, along with Rep. Rick Crawford’s easy re-election in the First District.

State House races also trended toward Republicans, with only a couple of bright notes for Democrats, who elected Bob Johnson of Jacksonville, a former Republican JP, in Dist. 42, and Lonoke City Attorney Camille Bennett, who was elected to represent House Dist. 14.


TOP STORY >> Who's who of past and present

Leader editor

The Lonoke County Museum and Grand Prairie Civil War Round Table will hold a fundraiser dinner and historical theater called “Tales from Beyond” from 5 until 7:30 p.m. Saturday.

Tickets are $20 per person, or $35 for a couple, and can still be purchased by calling 501-676-6750. The museum is at 215 Front St.

Beans and cornbread will be served, while 15 community members, dressed in 19th Century period costumes, share the stories of local Civil War soldiers, their wives and sisters, and former slaves. The event is one of four annual fundraisers for the museum, which is dedicated to preserving history at the local level with an emphasis on genealogy.

Sherryl Miller and Shirley Tomlinson, who are unpaid volunteers, rely on four annual fundraiser dinners like the one this Saturday to keep the museum open. They are hoping to have 100 guests attend.

The women are arguably the gatekeepers of the county’s past and seem to know the bloodlines of almost everyone in the area.

“One of our characters is going to be a former slave named Emaline Waddle. She died in the 1930s,” Miller said. Waddle will be portrayed by Annette Nellan.

Dwayne Nichols has the role of Lidge, the personal servant of Captain Eagle.

The Goodrum women — who were wives of Civil War veterans William and John Goodrum — will be played by three sisters — former Lonoke County Treasurer Patti Weathers, former Coroner Sherry Stracener and Rita Schmitz, who works for County Judge Doug Erwin. Erwin will portray his fellow Republican, President Abraham Lincoln.

About the sisters, Miller said, “They’re gonna ham it up because one of them is the second wife. It’s gonna be lots of fun.”

She continued, “The sisters-in-law and their husbands worked at the county courthouse that was in Brownsville, so they’re gonna tell what happened when the Union troops came in.”

Despite popular belief, Miller said the courthouse building itself was not transported to Lonoke because Union troops “used the bricks to build the camp ovens.”

Lonoke’s courthouse is not the antebellum building that once stood in Brownsville. “It’s a proven fact that the old one was torn down,” Miller said.

A lawyer in DeValls Bluff sued the Union years later and made them pay for tearing the courthouse down, she recalled.

Lonoke County Justice of the Peace Bill Ryker will play German-born Confederate soldier Ferdinand Gates. Miller promises Gates’ story is funny, like many of the other segments. “I like the humor in history,” she said.

Carrie Acree Parsons has the part of Elizabeth High, who became a hero after chasing off post-war looters known as jayhawkers. She later married the founder of Lonoke County, Isaac Clark Hicks.

Joel McClintock, the first sheriff of Lonoke County and a Union soldier, will be played by Nate Parsons. The museum also has an exhibit about McClintock.

Tommy Dupree of Jackson-ville, where he has spent years building up the Reed’s Bridge Civil War Battlefield site, will take the stage as Mancel U. Stone. Dupree is chairman of the Arkansas Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission.

Civil War historian R.D. Keever has the part of Sam Rister, a soldier who was at Camp Nelson near Cabot.

Suzy and Jim Schmidt have the parts of Susie Morrison and Dr. R.N. Ross. Leanna Rich will channel Lou Boone Wheat, the third wife of Capt. Pat H. Wheat. Jane Benton and Shirley McGraw will play Martha Ann Benton and Sallie Jones respectively.

Many of the stories are drawn from first-person accounts published in The Lonoke Democrat after the war. Several have been compiled into a book Miller wrote, which will be available at the dinner for $30.

A children’s coloring book is $5 and is filled with local historical events. It  was well received by a 5-year-old girl who is unfamiliar with Lonoke County history.

Miller’s articles on local Civil War figures have been published in The Leader, along with historic photos, since last spring. Some of the people she wrote about for this newspaper will be portrayed during Saturday’s dinner.

TOP STORY >> All five mayors re-elected

Leader staff writer

Area mayors retained their seats for another four years, but there were some changes on city councils.

Jacksonville Mayor Gary Fletcher defeated former Police chief Frank Sipes, and Sherwood Mayor Virginia Hillman withstood a challenge from two other candidates, Don Berry and Doris Anderson; Mayor Bill Cypert beat back a challenge by one-time Mayor Mickey (Stubby) Stumbaugh; Lonoke Mayor Wayne McGee is getting another term, just getting past Jim Bailey; and Ward Mayor Art Brooke got another term.

The Sherwood City Council will have one new alderman in January as Beverly Williams beat veteran Alderman Toni Butler. Jacksonville will have Tara Smith, who ran unopposed, taking Alderman Aaron Robinson’s seat.

Republican Robinson ran for the Dist. 11 Justice of the Peace position in Pulaski County and squeezed out an 11-margin victory over Democrat Sandra Prater.

Sherwood will start work on a new library as city voters approved a temporary one-cent tax to build the new facility. The tax is set to last only for the time necessary to cover the cost of the facility.

Fletcher garnered 3,678 votes, or 56 percent of the vote, to Sipes’ 2,837 votes, or 44 percent.

Sipes congratulated Fletcher. “I hope Jacksonville will now come together and unify. I hope Gary will move the ship forward like he said he would,” Sipes said.

The former police chief plans to stay active in the community and said that throughout his run his supporters encouraged him. “They were great. We learned a lot and met so many good people,” Sipes said.

Fletcher said Sipes ran a good campaign and agreed with him that now is the time to come together. “It’s time to erase that dividing line. We need to all come together and focus on our schools and development. We are still one city. I’m excited about the future. We are a city on the move,” Fletcher said.

First on Fletcher’s list is to make interim Police Chief Kenny Boyd the permanent chief. Fletcher will make the announcement at 2 p.m. today in a ceremony at the city’s Public Safety Building on Marshall Road.

In the other Jacksonville races, Alderman Mike Traylor retained his seat, garnering 3,890 votes, or 64 percent, to former code-enforcement officer Bill Shelley’s 2,174 votes or 36 percent. Longtime City Attorney Robert Bamburg got another four years in his job by collecting 3,256 votes, or 53 percent, to former City Attorney Keith Vaughan’s 2,935 votes or 47 percent.

In the Sherwood mayor’s race, Hillman collected 6,264 votes, or 58 percent, to Berry’s 3,777 votes, or 36 percent. Anderson received 688 votes, or six percent.

Hillman said she was pleased that voters are keeping her in office for another four years. “We ran a clean, positive campaign and appreciate everyone’s vote. We will just keep moving forward,” she said.

Sherwood voters kept one alderman on the council and replaced another one.

Alderman Mary Jo Heye kept her seat, garnering 1,504 votes, or 67 percent, to former Alderman Lex “Butch” Davis’ 737 votes, or 33 percent.

Beverly Williams, co-chair of the committee trying to get Sherwood its own school district, becomes the newest Sherwood aldermen, beating incumbent Toni Butler, 1,895 votes, or 68 percent, to 882 votes, or 32 percent.

Both Sherwood and Jackson-ville have been pushing for liquor sales as half of Sherwood is dry and 90 of Jacksonville is, but both halted their efforts in hopes that a statewide initiative would pass. Pulaski County voters said yes to the measure, but the overall state vote said no to alcohol.

In Cabot, Mayor Cypert won another term, defeating Stumbaugh by about 738 votes, 3,624 to 2,886.

Cypert stressed his sound fiscal leadership, including extension of a one-cent sales tax to improve the city’s parks, along with a new library and a freeway interchange between Cabot and Austin.

A runoff is set in Cabot Ward 3, Position 1, pitting Doyle Tullos   against Wendell Gibson, who finished 2,459-1,799, beating out Alderman Angie Jones, who had 1,648 votes.

Brooke, who won another term in Ward, said, “I feel good about the race. I feel very comfortable at this point with the tax issue. Hopefully, it passes and will increase everyone’s property values.” His hopes came true as the tax issue passed by 30 points.

Lonoke’s McGee said, “I’m happy. I feel proud that the city trusts me for another four years to keep moving forward, bringing more to the community... to make Lonoke a better place to live and keep it growing.”

In Beebe, Alderman Harold Welch lost to David Pruitt,  831- 790, in Ward 1, Position 1.

In Ward 3, Position 2, Alderman Dale Bass defeated Warren Spillman, 1,038-572.

In Ward 3, Position 2, Matt Dugger defeated Alderman John Johnson, 946-657.

SPORTS STORY >> Nothing at all on the line when Cabot hosts Searcy

Leader sportswriter

The Cabot Panthers will be playing for nothing but bragging rights in their 7A/6A-East game against Searcy at home Thursday, but even though the Panthers have already locked up a playoff berth, Cabot head coach Mike Malham made it clear that his team needs to end the regular season with a win.

“We need a win,” said Malham. “We’re going to go out there to win it. We’re going to play our best and try to win and get a little momentum going into these playoffs. We need a win just to get some confidence.”

After winning four of their first six games, the Panthers have lost two of their last three, in large part because of some key injuries. But games like last week’s one-point loss against 6A Jonesboro don’t count towards 7A playoffs.

Cabot’s offense and defense has had to get accustomed to playing without senior receiver/free safety Jake Ferguson, who was injured in week six and is likely done for the season, and the Panthers lost starting quarterback Jarrod Barnes to a broken thumb in week seven.

Barnes, a sophomore, played running back at times against Jonesboro last week with a cast on his throwing hand, and made an immediate impact. He led the Panthers’ rushing attack with 115 yards and a touchdown on just seven carries in the 24-23 loss to Jonesboro, the No. 1 seed from the 6A-East.

Despite last week’s narrow loss to Jonesboro, the Panthers punched their playoff ticket by beating West Memphis in week six. Cabot (5-4, 3-3) will travel to one of the northwest schools for the first round of the 7A playoffs next week. Conversely, Searcy (4-5, 3-3) will host a playoff game in the Class 6A tournament next week.

As for the Lions, their base offense is the Spread, and like Jonesboro and North Little Rock, they’re pretty balanced as far as their number of run and pass plays. Searcy has a few playmakers on that side of the ball, but the one Malham was quick to point out is senior receiver Rivers Ridout.

“They’ve got a big, tall kid out on the perimeter,”  Malham said of Ridout. “He’s about 6-5, runs good. Against Jonesboro, watching that tape, he caught two over the top and then ran a reverse for their three touchdowns. So they’ve got some weapons.

“Defensively, I think we’ve been playing pretty good. We gave up a few plays here and there, but I think we’re getting better. We’ve been two games without Jake and people are filling in, and I feel confident that our defense is getting better.”

The Lions’ base defense is a 4-3. That’s primarily what formation they’ve lined up in against the Panthers’ offense in the past, and that’s what Malham expects his offense to see the majority of the time Thursday night.

“They run a 4-3,” Malham said. “That’s what they ran last year against us. They also jump into a 6-1 some, move them linebackers up, and then they’ll play four deep so they can take care of the option. They’re a 4-3 cover four. That’s what they do and they are getting better at it.

“They’ll read some, but they’ll send them. They’ll slant them and send them. They’ll take chances; try to get you in bad plays.”

Like Malham said, he’d like for his team to enter the playoffs on a winning streak. He believes that if his team can gain some confidence and some momentum this week that it can perhaps surprise some teams when the playoffs begin next week.   

“If we can get a little momentum going into the playoffs, I’d like to think that no matter where we end up going we can challenge somebody and maybe upset somebody,” Malham said.

“Nothing’s going to be easy, that’s for sure. We’re going to have to play well.”

Thursday’s game will be the last played at Panther Stadium this season, and kickoff is at 7 p.m.

SPORTS STORY >> Devils, Lions for state

Leader sports editor

The potential shakeup in the conference standings caused by the possibility of McClellan’s  forfeit of two conference wins weighs heavily into  Thursday’s matchup between the Red Devils and Crimson Lions. But this game in southwest Little Rock will be a spirited one for different reasons.

The Jacksonville-McClellan game has quickly become a heated rivalry in football and basketball, and last year’s game won’t be sitting well with this year’s home team. In a game that was chippy from the start, Jacksonville dominated and won 31-6, but that was a different program. Coach Maurice Moody has things going in the right direction in hi second year. After finishing 1-9 last season, the Lions are officially 3-6, but 5-4 on the field of play.

Jacksonville coach Barry Hickingbotham expects a tough game for his 3-6 Red Devils.

“We’re going to have to play, man,” said Hickingbotham. “They’re good. They have a lot of guys that can run the football, a lot of speed. You have to account for all of them. You can’t let anybody slip through or they can beat you.”

There’s also last year’s game that McClellan will have on its mind. After the game, McClellan returned to its dressing room to find personal items missing. During a confrontation outside the Jacksonville locker room over the missing items, a scuffle broke out. Hickingbotham was not here for that incident, but expects it will provide some extra motivation for his team’s hosts.

“From what I understand, after last year’s game, there’s a lot of interest built up for this one,” Hickingbotham said. “They’re going to get after us. I don’t think playoffs matter that much in this one. They have something to prove even if they can’t get in. They’re going to want to show everyone they’re the team that belongs in there. We want to do the same thing. It’s going to be a big one.”

Jacksonville is coming off a 31-7 victory over Mills; a game Hickingbotham says is his team’s best of the year. Fundamental soundness was the key, and he hopes it continues.

“I’m not sure how much technique they play on defense, they just attack,” Hickingbotham said. “We have to recognize where things are coming from and do the little things right to give us some time to get our plays going. Last week was the first game we didn’t have any fumbles, no major penalties.

“We played a quality football game and that’s a big positive for us. No. 5 (Lamont Gause) had a great game because we blocked for him and did things right. When we give him a chance to do some things, he makes us a whole lot better.”

With all the different scenarios swirling around what happens to the standings with the forfeits, Hickingbotham didn’t want to concern himself with it, channeling his inner Johnny Cochran to portray his message.

“I’m looking at it like this,” Hickingbotham said. “It’s something we can’t control, so we got to go. If we don’t win, we don’t get in.”

SPORTS STORY >> Lonoke playing for four

Leader sportswriter

The Lonoke Jackrabbits punched their ticket to the Class 4A state playoffs with last week’s 28-0 win over Stuttgart, but the Jackrabbits can earn the No. 4 seed out of the 4A-2 Conference if they beat Riverview on Thursday at James B. Abraham Stadium.

Lonoke’s playoff hopes looked dim at the midway point of the season, but since knocking off Central Arkansas Christian in week eight, the Jackrabbits have won two-straight conference games to lock up at least the No. 5 seed out of the conference, but a win Thursday will give the Rabbits the four seed.

“If we win Thursday we’ll be the four (seed), if we lose we’ll be the five,” said Lonoke coach Doug Bost. “Newport beat CAC last week. CAC and Stuttgart play this week and the winner is in and the loser would be out. So yes, we are in.”

There have been several key factors that have led to the Rabbits’ late-season turnaround. Moving junior receiver Justin Meadows to running back in week eight has helped Lonoke’s run game immensely, taking some of the focus off junior tailback Josh Coleman.

In the last two games since moving to the backfield, Meadows has carried the ball a total of 36 times for 466 yards (13 yards per carry) and two touchdowns. Lonoke’s defense has played lights out as well the last two weeks, in part because their starters are getting healthy at the right time.

“For sure the run game on offense has really gotten us going,” Bost said, “and the defense has been playing great. The last two weeks they’ve only given up really 14 points, and we gave up zero points this past week. So that’s definitely a good thing.

“The kids’ energy and excitement has been so great the last couple of weeks. So we hope we can carry that over.”

As for Riverview (2-7, 1-5), the Raiders are a Spread team on offense, like Lonoke (4-5, 3-3), but they bring a more balanced attack. The skill positions are Riverview’s biggest strength, and Bost said the ones that stand out on that side of the ball are senior tailback Xavier Barrow and junior quarterback David Lee.

Barrow played the majority of last season with a fractured ankle, but still carried the ball 73 times for 452 yards and three touchdowns. Lee took all of the meaningful snaps at QB last season, and completed 53 percent of his passes for 1,051 yards and 12 TDs with 10 interceptions.

“Their tailback, number five (Barrow), he’s a big kid,” Bost said. “I would say he’s every bit of right at six foot, 215 (pounds). He looks real big on film, and the quarterback is a runner and a thrower. So that’s kind of the two main ones we’ve seen there.”

Defensively, the Raiders are multiple, and have lined up in a 4-4, a 3-5 and a 3-4, and Bost expects his offense to see all three formations Thursday night.

“I think we’re going to get a bunch of looks from them on the defensive side of the ball,” Bost said. “They’re going to have to be able to recognize it, because they just kind of bounce around from one defense to another, try and confuse you. So yeah, we’re going to have to really look at that this week in practice.”

Thursday’s regular-season finale will in all likelihood be the final home game for the Jackrabbits this season, that’s including the playoffs, and kickoff is at 7 p.m.

SPORTS STORY >> Bears to play for a Central crown at PA

Leader sports editor

After starting the season with eight-straight victories, Sylvan Hills finds itself in a precarious position going into week 10 of the regular season. At 7 p.m. Friday, the Bears travel to top-ranked Pulaski Academy on the heels of a shocking upset loss at home to Beebe last week. Sylvan Hills is still playing for a 5A-Central co-championship, but may have to beat PA by at least 10 points just to avoid getting the three seed in the state playoffs.

“We’ve really got no one to blame but ourselves,” said Sylvan Hills coach Jim Withrow. “But we can still play well and compete. That’s what we have to do. I’ll be honest with you, I thought last year this team had a chance to beat them, and I think this team has a legitimate chance to beat them. We just have to regroup and play.”

Just as Sylvan Hills’ eight-game winning streak was snapped last week, the Bears have a chance to snap the Bruins’ streak at eight games. Pulaski Academy lost 48-42 at Highland Park, Texas, in its first game this season. Since then, the Bruins have beaten eight-straight opponents by at least 29 points. They are averaging 54.8 points per game in the eight wins and are scoring most of that in the first half of games.

Going up against an offense like PA’s is, one aspect, a relief for Withrow.

“I don’t think it’s any easier to defend, but at least it’s something we’ve seen,” Withrow said, comparing PA’s spread attack to Beebe’s rarely-used Dead-T. “Their thing is they just want to put as much pressure on you as they can. You know going in you’re going to have to score some points. There’s a lot of reads where they take what you give them. We’ve not seen that nearly like we’re going to Friday. Then they sprinkle in all the trick plays and the onside kicks. The thing is, if you’re sound in what you’re doing, you give yourself a chance.”

Special teams was a key factor in the Bears’ loss last week. Both teams scored six touchdowns. The difference in the final score was that Beebe made five extra points while Sylvan Hills converted just one. It is, however, not something Withrow is concerned about going into this week’s game.

“It’s never been an issue,” Withrow said. “We were nine for nine against Mills. We’ve scored a lot of touchdowns and only missed one or two extra points all year. Different things happened on different kicks, but we’re putting it behind us. That’s what we have to do this week. If you make a mistake, leave it there and go to the next play.”

The Bears hurt themselves early in last week’s game with turnovers on their first two possessions. That’s something Withrow says can’t happen this week.

“One thing we’ve learned about ourselves is that we need as many possessions as we can get,” Withrow said. “And we can’t give them up when we get them. So we have to make the most of our possessions on offense, and on defense, don’t give up anything cheap. We have to make them work for it.”

How he plans to make PA work for its points involves no gimmicks, like some other teams have tried.

“We’re just going to do what we do,” Withrow said. “It’s a little bit like defending Cabot or Beebe, in that everybody’s trying 25 different things to stop them. One team we saw on film was rushing two and dropping nine back. But if it’s not what you’ve done all year, you’re not going to be as effective at it. We just have to play smart and we’ll have a chance.”