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Palin visit 

Palin visit

At press time, we were awaiting the arrival in North Little Rock of Sarah Palin, scheduled to speak at a Republican Party of Arkan-sas fund-raiser at Verizon Arena. A party spokesman said 300 $500 reception tickets had been sold, plus about 800 tickets to the $175-a-plate dinner. That's about $290,000 in proceeds and the spokesman said “several thousand” general admission tickets had been sold, at prices rang-ing from $35 to $65. That won't create a huge windfall for the party. Though no official will confirm it, we've been told Palin's fee was $75,000, plus private jet transportation and lodging. The arena rental will cost $50,000 and those 800 dinner tickets will have a cost, too. A big part of the remaining profit, we hear, will be offset on the party's balance sheets by a substantial pay raise for Party Chairman Doyle Webb.


Church turmoil

Our Lady of the Holy Souls Catholic Church, which is one of the state's biggest and which serves some of Little Rock's most pros-perous neighborhoods, has been roiled by a leadership change. Bishop Anthony Taylor told the congregation at Mass last Sunday that he had sought the retirement of Msgr. Royce Thomas, 65, pastor of the parish. At Mass and a fractious meeting in the parish hall afterward, Taylor acknowledged that Thomas was not happy about the move. The bishop also said he expected an angry response from some parishion-ers.

A number of members of the congregation pressed the bishop for answers at the parish hall gathering. Questioners wondered, for one, whether the action was somehow related to Taylor's vigorous work in support of the Latino immigrant community and Thomas' participation in those efforts. There's no indication that's the case. Thomas, profiled in January in the High Profile section of the Democrat-Gazette for his 40 years as a priest, has been the subject of dozens of supportive comments on a Facebook page created on the issue (search: “Msgr. Royce Thomas we support you!”) As it now stands, though many supporters are discussing avenues of appeal, Thomas is expected to move to Ari-zona. Retired Msgr. Gaston Hebert will be parish administrator until a new pastor is named.


Make it a double

After a decades-long dry spell, the state of Arkansas suddenly has the possibility of two distilleries operating in the state. Permits have been filed with Arkansas Alcoholic Beverage Control to open liquor manufacturing operations in both Little Rock and Newport.

The Little Rock business, to be known as Rock Town Distillery, will be located at 1216 E. Sixth Street, just east of downtown. The 15,509-square-foot facility plans to produce vodka, gin and whiskey, which will be sold through Moon Distributing. Philip Brandon is chief shareholder, along with several others (including Thompson Murray, who lists his occupation as Methodist minister).

The Newport liquor maker — to be known as Old Ed Ward's Distillery — is further along in the permitting process. Old Ed Ward's will be housed in a 50-by-40-foot metal building, with the option of using a former lumber store across the street as a storage warehouse. Plans on file with the ABC show the distillery as having two stills, a mash pot, and two holding tanks. The ABC granted approval to Old Ed Ward's Distillery on Jan. 20, conditional on Health Department approval and a re-inspection by ABC.

Don Bennett, attorney for ABC, cautions that it could still be awhile before you get your first drink of Arkansas's finest. “The big kicker is they have to get approval from the federal government,” Bennett said. “And the federal government will not issue a federal permit until you have your equipment installed, tested and ready to go. So, it's like they're looking down the line. It may be six months, it may be a year.”

Judicial candidates

At least three candidates seem likely to seek election to the circuit court judgeship vacant because of the ouster of Willard Proctor — Wrightsville District Judge Rita Bailey, administrative law judge Causley Edwards and former Appeals Court Judge Wendell Griffen.

Political vandals

Already under heavy criticism from both left and right, Sen. Blanche Lincoln recently found that even the “Blanche Lincoln” entry on Wikipedia was under attack. Anyone consulting the on-line encyclopedia about Lincoln last month found this box at the top of the entry:

“Editing of this article by new or unregistered users is currently disabled until February 4, 2010 due to vandalism.”

Karl Rove, former adviser to former President George W. Bush, is widely recognized as the modern master of political dirty tricks. It happens that a Rove protege, Tim Griffin, now lives in Little Rock and is seeking office. But he's supposedly running for the House of Representa-tives, not the Senate. A whole bunch of Republicans want to run against Lincoln though, and any of them might have access to Rove.

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