Rarin' to race
Jimmie Lou Fisher, the former state treasurer who exceeded expectations in a losing race as the 2002 Democratic nominee for governor, says that she is considering a race for lieutenant governor in 2006.
"People have been encouraging me to do it, and I am considering it," Fisher said. She added that she is more focused on helping the slate of candidates this year, not to mention paying off the last of her 2002 campaign debt.
She could be a candidate sooner than 2006 under one scenario. If term-limited incumbent Gov. Mike Huckabee resigns early (say to take a job in a second Bush administration, as some have rumored could happen), current Lt. Gov. Win Rockefeller would ascend to the state's highest office, prompting a special election to fill the vacant No. 2 job. The special election would bar constitutional officers and legislators from running, knocking out the two most oft-mentioned likely Democratic candidates in the race -- state Sens. Shane Broadway and Tim Wooldridge -- and leaving the coast clear for Fisher. Several Republicans are mulling such a scenario, too, convinced that Huckabee's work for George W. Bush is aimed at a cabinet slot, say Health and Human Services.
The farkleberry tree, you might know, has a rich political history in Arkansas. Cartoonist George Fisher drew a famous cartoon of Gov. Orval Faubus, as seen in the branches of a giant farkleberry, after Faubus claimed to have stopped a highway crew from cutting down a mighty specimen in northern Arkansas.
Sam Jones, known for landscaping talents as well as his work at the Wright, Lindsey, Jennings law firm, inquired of the Clinton Library staff recently whether a farkleberry tree would be a part of the Clinton Presidential Park landscaping.
At least a couple of drug companies that make smoking-cessation products contributed to Gov. Mike Huckabee's last gubernatorial campaign. Huckabee has recommended that the Arkansas Medicaid program provide smoking-cessation products (patches and gums) to clients who request them. The program will begin Oct. 1 if the federal government approves. GlaxoSmithKline, which manufactures Nicoderm, a patch, and Nicorette, a gum, gave $1,000 to Huckabee's campaign. Novartis, which manufactures Nicotinell, a patch, and other smoking-cessation products, also contributed $1,000. A spokesman for Medicaid said that generic equivalents of the brand-name smoking-cessation products were available, and that in most cases, physicians would prescribe the generic form for Medicaid patients. The generic and the brand-name product may be made by the same company.
Former Republican senator and presidential candidate Bob Dole will be in Little Rock on Saturday to deliver the inaugural lecture for the Clinton School of Public Service.
Surprised that the man who challenged Clinton's 1996 re-election bid would be invited to be the first speaker at an academic institution bearing his name? Well, times have changed, and Clinton and Dole have become big buddies. Clinton delivered the first Robert J. Dole lecture at the University of Kansas in May, and the two men participated in a series of debates on "60 Minutes" last year.
Nevertheless, Dole's visit to Little Rock is not without its complicating factors. Namely, the presidential campaign. Dole recently lashed out at Democratic nominee John Kerry.
"But three Purple Hearts and never bled that I know of," Dole said on CNN last month. "I mean, they're all superficial wounds." Later in the same interview, he added, "But what I will always quarrel about are the Purple Hearts. I mean, the first one, whether he ought to have a Purple Heart -- he got two in one day, I think. And he was out of there in less than four months, because three Purple Hearts and you're out."
Besides being factually inaccurate (Kerry's Purple Hearts were awarded for injuries sustained on three different days, and he still carries shrapnel in his leg, which by definition is far from "superficial"), Dole's attack was petty and vicious. Also hypocritical. Dole himself has written about the superficiality of an accidental self-inflicted wound that got him a Purple Heart. Now the Clinton School is giving him a forum in Arkansas.
The Clinton School bills itself as non-partisan, and hosting Dole helps bolster its claim. They can point to Dole's appearance when appealing to Republican Gov. Mike Huckabee for state appropriations.
However, when does magnanimity become overcompensation? Clinton School associate dean Thomas Bruce says that the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard "consciously" tries to make sure that 50 to 75 percent of its speakers are conservatives, just to make sure they are not accused of being too liberal.
It is hard to imagine that the conservative Hoover Institution follows such a spineless quota system.
So long, saloon
The BizBuySell website, a small-business classified ad service operated in alliance with the Wall Street Journal, lists a "tavern and pool hall" for sale in Northwest Arkansas for $1.65 million. The broker wouldn't disclose the name of the place, but it could be Roger's Tavern & Recreation on Dickson Street, known familiarly by generations of UA students as "Roger's Rec."
There are only three or four billiards halls that double as bars in Fayetteville and the 1947 lineage of the advertised business points to Roger's too. Also, The Insider dropped by Roger's last weekend for a cold one and found it closed, except for some bikers gathering privately inside.
The ad touts the location as the possible site for a chain restaurant, which many Dickson denizens wouldn't count as an improvement.
Roger Runnells, a former partner in Boulevard Bread Company, died in July. Runnells, along with friends and fellow chefs Scott McGehee and Robbie Lewis, were featured in a January cover story for the Times' Best Restaurants issue.
McGehee and Lewis have started a college fund for Runnells' four-year-old son Connor. "I think there would be a considerable amount of people that would like to donate to this fund but don't know about it due to the suddenness of Roger's passing," Lewis wrote. Those who'd like to contribute can send to Pulaski Bank and the account For the Benefit of Connor Runnells College Fund.
Bob Scoggin, 50, the Department of Arkansas Heritage archeologist whose job it was to review the work of agencies, including DAH and the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department, for possible impacts on historic properties, resigned from the agency on Monday. Multiple sources say Scoggin, whom they describe as an "exemplary" employee who the week before had completed an archeological project on DAH property, was told he would be fired if he did not resign.
Reforms promised by the Division of Children and Family Services are "absolutely necessary," the president of DCFS's independent consultant told a legislative committee this morning. But they still may not be enough to control the state's alarming growth in foster care cases.
Fake news is a new phenomenon in the world of politics and policy, but hokey economic scholarship has been around as long as Form 1040 and is about as reliable as the news hoaxes that enlivened the presidential campaign.
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.