The new Democrats
Now that Jason Willett has been installed as the new chairman of the Arkansas Democratic Party, attention is turning to who will take over as the party’s executive director. (Willett’s first action as chairman was the firing of the previous director, Michael Cook.)
The Insider hears that Chris Masingill, the district director for U.S. Rep. Mike Ross, will assume the role on an interim basis while Willett considers a permanent choice. Willett confirmed that he would appoint an interim director, but he did not specify it would be Masingill.
Leading candidates for the permanent position include Masingill; Gabe Holmstrom, a staffer for U.S. Rep. Marion Berry who assisted Willett in the chairman’s race; Rodney Shelton, who directed the 2004 Democratic coordinated campaign in Arkansas; Cydney Pearce, a project coordinator and manager of U.S. Sen. Blanche Lincoln’s Arkansas office; and Michael Teague, a deputy district director for U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor who also worked in the Clinton White House.
Sounds of silence
KUAR-FM’s Ron Breeding last week followed up the Arkansas Times’ reporting on the refusal by the Governor’s Mansion administrator, First Lady Janet Huckabee and members of the non-profit Mansion Association to provide information on a new residence on the Mansion grounds, despite the work of public employees in raising money for the project and coordinating the work.
Though Gov. Mike Huckabee had said he welcomed inquiries from the “legitimate” press (as opposed to us), Breeding didn’t do much better with the Huckabees.
His report did reveal that plans on file at the Arkansas Building Authority show the new residence, envisioned in 2002 as 7,000 square feet, is now 8,700 square feet. But Mrs. Huckabee abruptly terminated Breeding’s interview when he dared to ask for details. (Blueprints for the new mansion and a recording of Breeding’s interview may be found at www.kuar.org.)
To follow up on the KUAR story, the Times called Kathy Crass, vice president of the Mansion Association. She could not comment, she said, on particulars such as cost, money on hand and whether state agencies will oversee the work. She referred us to Mansion Administrator Don Bingham, who Crass said had told her he’d reply to e-mail questions. He had refused repeated attempts to get answers in the past, but, ever hopeful, we e-mailed Bingham again Monday. At press time, we were still waiting for a response. Do you still think the Association is really in charge of this project, or the Huckabee administration?
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.
Sen. Jason Rapert (R-Conway) was on "Capitol View" on KARK, Channel 4, this morning, and among other things that will likely inspire you to yell at your computer screen, he said he expects someone in the legislature to file a bill to do ... something about changing the name of the Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport.
Amid the climate of disbelief and fear among Democrats following Donald Trump's election, a fascinating debate has broken out about what's called "identity politics" on the left, "political correctness" by the right.
A former inmate who claims she was sexually assaulted over 70 times by former McPherson Womens' Unit chaplain Kenneth Dewitt has filed a federal lawsuit against Dewitt, several staff members at the prison, and officials with the Arkansas Department of Corrections, including former director Ray Hobbs.
We're sad to report that Doug Smith has decided to retire. Though he's been listed as an associate editor on our masthead for the last 22 years, he has in fact been the conscience of the Arkansas Times. He has written all but a handful of our unsigned editorials since we introduced an opinion page in 1992.
Last week, Attorney General Dustin McDaniel became the first elected statewide official to express support for same-sex marriage. His announcement came days before Circuit Judge Chris Piazza is expected to rule on a challenge to the state's constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. Soon after, a federal challenge of the law is expected to move forward. McDaniel has pledged to "zealously" defend the Arkansas Constitution but said he wanted the public to know where he stood.
Remarking as we were on the dreariness of this year's election campaigns, we failed to pay sufficient tribute to the NRA, one of the most unsavory and, in its predictability, dullest of the biennial participants in the passing political parade.