Conner Eldridge leaving U.S. attorney post. Increases speculation about U.S. Senate race | Arkansas Blog

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Conner Eldridge leaving U.S. attorney post. Increases speculation about U.S. Senate race

Posted By on Tue, Aug 11, 2015 at 11:20 AM

click to enlarge CONNER ELDRIDGE: Political announcement coming?
  • CONNER ELDRIDGE: Political announcement coming?
Conner Eldridge, U.S. attorney for the Western District of Arkansas, is resigning from the job effective Aug. 21.

This adds to prior speculation that Eldridge, 37, might mount a challenge to Republican U.S. Sen. John Boozman in 2016.

Eldridge, a Democrat, has long evinced an interest in electoral politics and his appointment to a U.S. attorney slot was seen as a resume-builder for such a future. I talked with him about politics after the Republican tsunami and he acknowledged how difficult the political landscape had become in Arkansas for Democrats. But he did not say it had ended his interest in seeking elective office.

Eldridge has said he won't talk about plans until after he leaves the U.S. attorney's office.

If he is in the Senate race, he's the first Democrat to announce for any of the five congressional seats that will be on the ballot in 2016. Because Republicans pushed up the primary to March at the behest of Gov. Asa Hutchinson for presidential primary reasons, filing begins in November.

Eldridge was CEO of Summit Bank when it was controlled by his father-in-law, Ross Whipple of Arkadelphia. The bank has since been sold to Bank of the Ozarks and Whipple has liquidated tens of millions worth of stock he received in the deal in the last year. Eldridge worked on the staffs of both Sen. Blanche Lincoln and U.S. Rep. Marion Berry before earning a law degree at the University of Arkansas. He clerked for federal Judge G. Thomas Eisele, a Republican of the Rockefeller era.

His news release:

United States Attorney for the Western District of Arkansas, Conner Eldridge, announced today that he is stepping down from the United States Attorney position, effective August 21, 2015. Eldridge has served as United States Attorney in the Western District of Arkansas since December 21, 2010. Kenneth Elser, currently Eldridge’s First Assistant U.S. Attorney, will serve as acting United States Attorney upon Eldridge’s departure.

U.S. Attorney Eldridge commented, “I am extremely proud of the work we have done to make communities throughout Arkansas safer places to live. We have focused on prosecuting those who bring crime and violence onto streets across our state, threaten our children, and defraud hard-working Arkansans. I am confident that work has made a difference. It has been a privilege to stand alongside law enforcement, prosecutors, and community leaders to confront crime and to work to make sure that we create an environment that gives all kids in our state a chance to succeed.”

During his tenure, Eldridge prioritized crimes that have an effect on children, including cases involving sexual abuse of children and child pornography, human trafficking, and violent crime. Eldridge led the prosecution of numerous large-scale, violent drug trafficking organizations, violent crimes resulting in serious injury or death, and crimes involving fraud that resulted in significant financial losses to a large number of individuals and institutions. In Eldridge’s first year, his office secured the first convictions in the nation under the Matthew Shephard and James Byrd Hate Crimes Act for a violent, life-threatening incident in Alpena, Arkansas that resulted in serious physical injury to five individuals. Eldridge also focused on prosecuting public corruption, bringing cases against a County Judge and County Treasurer for bribery and theft of public funds. Under Eldridge’s leadership, the office has prosecuted 120 defendants that committed crimes involving children.
Eldridge also started and recently announced the “A-Chance” program which will begin in 13 schools in six counties in the Western District of Arkansas. “A-Chance” stands for Arkansas Cultivating Healthy Attitudes and Nurturing Children to Excel. The A-Chance Program directly addresses the goal of mitigating negative impacts on children exposed to violence and trauma by identifying children that have come into contact with law enforcement and ensuring that school personnel are aware of that fact. Beginning when school starts on August 17 of this year, the A-Chance Program will ensure that when children are present at a violent, criminal, or traumatic event, police will notify their school by the next morning. The school will then be better able to interact with and educate the child. This program will be implemented by school districts and law enforcement agencies in Washington, Sebastian, Crawford, Union, Clark, and Ouachita Counties.

Additionally, Eldridge proposed the reestablishment and served as national co-chair of the Domestic Terrorism Executive Committee (DTEC). The DTEC’s purpose is to ensure collaboration and communication between law enforcement agencies and components regarding the threat of domestic terrorism across America. The committee was reconstituted on April 18, 2014, and Eldridge has served a co-chair of it since that time. In addition to Eldridge as a representative of the United States Attorney community, representatives of the National Security Division and the FBI also co-chair the group. The committee meets several times during the year and serves as a vital forum for members of the Justice Department, the FBI, and a number of other law enforcement agencies, including several departments - Homeland Security, Treasury, Interior, and USDA - to assess and share information about domestic terrorism threats and trends.

Prior to serving as United States Attorney, Eldridge served as a Deputy Prosecuting Attorney in Clark County, Arkansas; as Chief Executive Officer of Summit Bank, also located in Arkadelphia, Arkansas, and as a judicial law clerk to the Honorable G. Thomas Eisele in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas. In addition to leading the office as United States Attorney, Eldridge tried five cases to jury verdict during his tenure.

The Western District of Arkansas includes 34 counties stretching from Texarkana, El Dorado, and Hot Springs to Fayetteville, Fort Smith, and Harrison. Eldridge created and established the Fayetteville office which opened in January, 2015. Eldridge also increased staffing and caseload in the Texarkana and El Dorado divisions and ensured that the Fort Smith office continued to serve the River Valley by making several new hires there. The United States Attorney’s office in the Western District is responsible for the prosecution of all federal criminal cases in the District as well as the representation of the United States in civil matters.

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