Arkansas LegislatureArkansas PoliticsArkansas Republicans

The Race To Replace Bookout

Arkansas questionsNow that State Senator Paul Bookout (D-Jonesboro) has resigned his seat, Governor Beebe will have to call a special election to fill the spot. What candidates might run on the Republican side?
The Jonesboro Sun has reported that Lake City Mayor Jon Milligan might enter the race, but Milligan told the Sun he was “not considering it at this time.” In addition, former State Rep. Jon Hubbard has made it known that he was taking a look at the seat, but he told the Sun he is “probably not going to run.” Jack Ladyman is reportedly a possible candidate, but he may have a tough go of it: he’s currently a Health, Safety, and Environmental officer at Nordex USA (Yeah, that Nordex). As of press time, Ladyman has not returned my request for comment.
So, who might throw their hat in the ring? Craighead County Justice of the Peace Josh Longmire confirmed he is “considering” entering the contest, but said he is still involved in discussions with his wife about his future plans. He said he will make a decision within a week. Additionally, Longmire said it was “too early” to make any comments about what his campaign platform might look like or what areas of state government he’d like to reform.
One other rumored candidate is John Cooper. Cooper, an announced candidate for House District 59, tells me he is “seriously thinking about” a run for Bookout’s old chair. Cooper was a candidate for House District 59 seat in 2012 and came within a few points of unseating incumbent Rep. Butch Wilkins. If Cooper does decide to switch races and run for state Senate, he said transparency and ethics will be key components of the race:

Transparency in government and ethics will obviously be key issues. I think we’re in pretty good shape on [ethics] law. I’ve said before, we don’t need a whole new vehicle — we need to air the tires up.

Cooper added that the Bookout scandal was not a failure of the law, but a failure of one person to follow the law. With that said, there are some areas where Cooper would like to see ethics standards updated:

I think the Ethics Commission hearings should be open to the public. I’m also open to extending the statute of limitations [on ethics violations] beyond one term. In the Senate, they could lose their accountability in one term.

The statute of limitations on ethics violations is currently 4 years from the date of filing, according to the Ethics Commission. Cooper said, “I don’t think 8 years is too long to be held accountable.”
In addition, Cooper said his priorities in the senate would be the same as his priorities for the house: Reducing regulations, reducing the capital gains tax, and reducing the state income tax over time. He said regulations, high capital gains taxes, and high corporate income taxes are “blocking jobs” from coming to Arkansas. Finally, Cooper said he will work to improve education in the state and give parents more options for their children.
An official announcement from Cooper on his future political plans will come in the next few days. Stay tuned.

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