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Though Arkansas House races aren't usually a cause for excitement, this year's election in District 39 (North Little Rock) will draw some attention. The controversial candidacy of Dwayne Dobbins, a Democrat who resigned from the House after pleading guilty to a criminal charge in 2005, has given the Arkansas Green Party an opportunity to win its first seat in the legislature.
North Little Rock boilermaker Richard Carroll will be on the ballot for the Green Party; no Republican is running. And though it may be difficult for the inexperienced Carroll to defeat Dobbins, legislators on both sides of the aisle have said they will try to deny Dobbins the seat should he win.
Dobbins's 2005 resignation was a part of a plea bargain that reduced a felony sexual assault charge to a misdemeanor harassment charge after allegations that Dobbins improperly touched a 17-year-old girl. The seat is now held by his wife, Sharon Dobbins, who won a special election after her husband resigned. Though the party expected her to run again, her husband filed for the race an hour and a half before the deadline.
The state Democratic Party is not supporting Dobbins, and it has been unable to recruit a write-in candidate to run against him. The deadline for filing with the Secretary of State's office as a write-in is Aug. 6.
Though the Democrats have not stopped trying to enlist a write-in candidate, general anxiety over the situation may be reduced now that the Greens have enlisted Carroll, 51, for the ballot. A graduate of Catholic High, his previous political experience is limited to races for office in his union local, an affiliate of the AFL-CIO. He has worked for Union Pacific since 1993.
In an interview at his North Little Rock home, Carroll said he became interested in running after reading of how Dobbins filed at the last minute. “There was nobody to step up,” he said. “If not me, then who's going to run?”
Carroll is not a natural Green, but he said the opportunity to appear on the ballot, rather than as a write-in candidate as he had discussed with the Democratic Party, was too good to pass up. “I looked over their Ten Points of Value and told them I didn't have a problem with them,” said Carroll of the state Green Party platform. “I don't have to agree wholly with every one. My base is basically Democratic.”
Carroll said that he would not make the criminal conviction against Dobbins an issue in the race, though he considers it fair game to discuss the manner in which Dobbins filed for the election. He emphasized that he wants to focus on issues. He said he would work to secure funding to reduce crime rates. He would try to improve vocational training so residents of the district are better prepared to earn a living wage. He also sees an opportunity to increase light industry in the district, an oddly-shaped area that includes, besides portions of North Little Rock, the communities of of Rixey, Valentine, McAlmont, and a wide swath of land running northeast to Jacksonville.
Dobbins is talking issues, too. In a telephone interview, he said that he would focus on economic improvement. “Something I've done in the past is help with technology. Doing some things in that area that pay dividends as far as some legislation for technology granting funds. We also need to look at issues such as gas prices, alternative fuel sources and biodiesel.”
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