Fearless forecast 

Will Gov. Mike Huckabee call a special election to fill the vacancy created by the death of Lt. Gov. Win Rockefeller, whose term has less than six months to run?

We predict the answer is no. We’ve detected no interest in either of the major parties in causing the expense and confusion that such an election would engender. Moreover, there’s no apparent advantage to either party in pushing for an election. The Republican nominee in the general election, Jim Holt, as a sitting senator is ineligible to run for another seat during his current term of office. The Democratic nominee, Bill Halter, would effectively have to run two campaigns – one against a special election opponent and the other against Holt.

Also, it’s unlikely such a special election would be held any date but that of the regular general election in November, when the winner would have less than two months to serve. Why bother?

The law sets no deadline for the governor to act.

Other elections

News on the Huckabee for President front. This week’s real estate transactions indicate that Sarah Huckabee has bought a home on Cedar Ridge Court for $145,000. We couldn’t run the buyer down to confirm, but it’s likely the governor’s daughter, Sarah. She moved home from Washington a few weeks ago, reportedly to work for her father’s Hope for America Political Action Committee, the vehicle for his presidential explorations.

Hope for America just filed a quarterly financial report in Virginia, where it is registered. The report showed the PAC raised $106,259 in cash and in-kind contributions in the second quarter of the year and spent more than $81,000 on travel, printing, political consultants and other costs, though Sarah Huckabee’s name didn’t appear.

Contributions included $1,000 each from Tyson Foods and Acxiom. The big licks included $5,000 from BDR Inc. and The Trust J/M, both identified as Little Rock investment companies, and Bobby Campbell, a Little Rock businessman; $10,000 from Dr. Fred Wilson of McCrory; $20,000 from SPH Investments of Wakefield, R.I.; and $25,000 from FEQ Investments of Little Rock, a similar contributor in the first quarter. FEQ Investments (Ernest Bartlett has a phone at the same address listed for the company) happens, by the way, to be the name of a firm that hired battling Tommy Robinson, the former congressman recently accused of assaulting a creditor, as a lobbyist during the legislative session. Robinson has also lobbied for Huckabee.

Oh, and how could we forget? Huckabee got $10,000 from Southwestern Enterprises of St. Louis, a business arm of the Cella family, which owns Oaklawn Park at Hot Springs. You may remember when Huckabee angered foes of expanded gambling at Oaklawn by announcing immediately on its passage that he intended to allow the Oaklawn gambling expansion law take effect without his signature. Foes wanted a gubernatorial veto or at least a few days’ grace to build an override effort. Huckabee helped Oaklawn instead. It was the nicest form of thank-you note from the Cellas, don’t you think?

Missing flight

One more tidbit on Huckabee’s PAC report. We searched it for his promised report of an in-kind donation for the troubled jet flight he got gratis June 2 from the operators of the Lord’s Ranch, whose state-funded operation is the subject of this week’s cover story.

The Times learned of the plane’s ownership after it was forced to make an emergency landing in Chattanooga while ferrying Huckabee and family to a political appearance in North Carolina.

Huckabee later claimed that the free flight didn’t amount to an impermissible gift to a public official because he considered it an in-kind donation to his PAC. (It was still undeniably a gift to him, however. He and family and staff got the free ride, not his PAC. This doesn’t seem a technicality subject to Huckabee interpretation. At a minimum, it is yet another loophole exploited by the Huckster that probably should be addressed by the state Ethics Commission.)

In any case, the PAC report listed a single donated flight. It said Hope for America received air transportation worth $9,500 on June 30 from Stardust Aviation of Las Vegas. According to FAA records, the plane provided for the North Carolina flight was owned by Southeastern Asset Management, a New Hampshire corporation led by Ted Suhl, who directs the Lord’s Ranch. Also, though the PAC report says the Stardust flight was “received” on June 30, that’s the same date given for in-kind contributions of web design by Kelley Boyd of Havana and $360 worth of free tickets to an unspecified event provided by Centric Group of St. Louis.

The governor doesn’t answer our questions so we can’t tell you if the Stardust gift is another flight or perhaps the troubled flight under a different corporate name for the owner of the Suhl plane. There’s no listing for Stardust Aviation in the Las Vegas phone directory and FAA records on-line list no planes owned by Stardust Aviation. Perhaps another reporter will follow this up.

Fact or fiction

There’s a bit of a buzz in the Heights over a self-published novel by Cecilia Hallman and L. Douglass Brown, “The Memphis Kingmaker.” The novel (fiction, remember) is about a blonde who strikes up a friendship with an older man, a Memphis tycoon who’s a graduate of West Point. Hallman, it happens, is blonde who lives in South Carolina. She once lived in Little Rock, where she had a friendship with an older man, a Naval Academy graduate named Jackson T. Stephens. You probably know he achieved a certain measure of financial success in Little Rock before his death last summer. We’ve been unable to reach Hallman to talk about the book.


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