Murder and the mayor's race | Arkansas Blog

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Murder and the mayor's race

Posted By on Tue, Aug 1, 2017 at 10:26 AM

click to enlarge dgascxjvyaa-hf4.jpg

Fox 16/KARK's news director Austin Kellerman, has been crusading against Little Rock crime, not merely raising alarm but also organizing community events aimed at building positive reactions. But his occasional analyses are striking, such as above.

Of 37 homicides this year, more than recorded in several entire years in the past, 21 are unsolved.  Some of it might be a reluctance of witnesses with knowledge to help police, as city officials have attempted to argue. Or some of it might be a high toll among a relatively small number of known unfriendly factions. Whatever the reasons, the death toll is high and the solution rate low. Neither of the standing alibis would seem to fit with the Italian tourist gunned down Sunday night while driving in west Little Rock.

Which brings me in a roundabout way to politics. Fairly or unfairly, the head man, Mayor Mark Stodola, is a symbol of the city's successes and failures. That's why he put together a PR event on crime fighting the other day. A long-time incumbent is going to build some negatives regardless. Layer a record-breaking crime year on top and you could be talking serious political problems.

State Rep. Warwick Sabin has already announced his candidacy in 2018. State Rep. Clarke Tucker is in the "serious consideration" stage. Both candidates have youth, vigor and proven track records for grassroots campaigning and money raising.

But wait.... that's not all.

click to enlarge FRANK SCOTT: Add his name to speculation about the 2018 mayor's race.
  • FRANK SCOTT: Add his name to speculation about the 2018 mayor's race.
Long-time City Director Dean Kumpuris is said by friends to also be giving thought to a mayor's race. And now I hear Frank Scott, a banker and former member of the Arkansas Highway Commission, is also in the "seriously considering" phase. Scott is solidly in the business establishment, which Stodola has cultivated with some success. He is also black. This is a factor in a city where more than 40 percent of the population is black and where racially influenced voting patterns are more the rule than the exception.

In Little Rock government, a candidate must gather more than 40 percent of the vote to win without a runoff. Otherwise, a runoff is held a couple of weeks later, in what amounts to a one-issue special election.  Runoffs don't always run to first-round form. Remember 2012, when North Little Rock Mayor Joe Smith beat Tracy Steele in a runoff after trailing him in the first round?

Filing doesn't begin until August 2018, so this is just idle speculation for now. But a battle of progressive candidates to lead the state's largest city is a refreshing conversation piece in otherwise blood-red Arkansas.

And now that I think about it: What if a Lance Hines type decided to jump into a four-way race aiming to make a runoff on the strength of the western Republican bloc vote?

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