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?
The Senate this morning added an amendment to Rep. Charlie Collins campus carry bill that incorporates the effort denied in committee yesterday to require a 16-hour additional training period before university staff members with concealed carry permits may take the weapons on campus.
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.