"Serious" about 2006
We know it's a little early to start talking about the 2006 elections, but we hear that Saline County Prosecuting Attorney Robert Herzfeld was announcing at Jon Baker's "Seersucker Soiree" that he is definitely going to run for attorney general. Called for comment, Herzfeld confirmed that he is "talking to people," but that he prefers to say that he is "strongly considering" joining the AG race. The seat is expected to be open if Mike Beebe makes a widely predicted run for governor.
The other Democrats said to be spreading the word of their imminent candidacies for AG were similarly hesitant to give a definitive statement. Little Rock attorney Mark Stodola says that he is "considering it seriously." State Rep. Mike Hathorn, who hails from Madison County, said he is "seriously considering it." And North Little Rock City Attorney Paul Suskie, remembering that there is at least a chance that the incumbent will not vacate his office, said, "If Mike Beebe runs for governor and does not seek re-election - yes, I am seriously considering it."
At least 75 people showed up for the first meeting of the Democratic Party's Gay and Lesbian Caucus, according to the party's political director, LaShannon Spencer. The caucus still awaits official approval by the Democratic state committee, and that is expected to happen at the state convention in August. Similar to the Young Democrats and the Democratic Women, the Gay and Lesbian caucus will raise money, advocate its key issues, and serve as a liaison to the party for its constituency.
It's probably not a coincidence that the caucus is forming in an election year that will likely see a constitutional amendment on the ballot to ban gay marriage in Arkansas.
Gator's, the North Little Rock riverboat restaurant that's had some rough sailing in its past, was forced to close its doors last week, perhaps for good this time, when the city refused to renew its lease. It's been reported elsewhere that North Little Rock only was allowing use of the property on a month-to-month basis. The timing of the eviction may have something to do with plans to revamp the entire swath of downtown riverfront by adding a new ballpark, maritime museum, and other developments. City officials may have decided that a laid-back nightclub with a motorcycle-riding clientele just wouldn't fit in.
Art on the way
Two artists are on the verge of closing a deal to open a new downtown showcase for art to be called OVAL, Artist Management and Gallery, they confirmed this week.
George Pepper and Carla Koen expect to open the business, which will combine a gallery with an artists' cooperative business office, in September, in space they describe as "right outside the River Market area."
Pepper said the gallery should fit in perfectly with the arts and entertainment center goals that financier Warren Stephens is said to have for the main downtown area.
Sheila Kennedy, a professor of architecture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and founder of Kennedy & Violich Architecture Ltd., will give the June Freeman lecture tonight at the Arkansas Arts Center, part of the Architecture + Design Network series at the Arkansas Arts Center.
The Walton College of Business is working to expand its executive education by opening an office in downtown Little Rock that would offer non-degree programs to the health, banking and finance and retail industries in Central Arkansas, the school confirmed today.
A former mental health agency director has won a default judgment worth $358,000 over a claim for unpaid retirement pay and Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson is apparently to blame for failure to respond to pleadings in the case.
Old habits die hard. We may have a new Republican majority in the legislature, but like the old Democratic majority, it still doesn't hurt to have a lawmaker spouse to land a part-time job during the legislative session.
When we first asked Gov. Mike Beebe about the "circuit breaker" idea out of Arizona (automatically opting out of Medicaid expansion if the feds reduce the matching rates in the future), he said it was fine but noted that states can already opt out at any time, an assurance he got in writing from the feds.
An interesting controversy is brewing in Conway Public Schools, periodically a scene of discord as more liberal constituents object to the heavy dose of religion that powerful local churches have tried to inject into the schools, particularly in sex education short on science and long on abstinence.