by Max Brantley
Judge Mary McGowan took testimony this morning on a challenge to Bill Halter's candidacy for lieutenant governor. The lawsuit -- widely believed filed by someone sympathetic to Mike Hathorn's candidacy (though the campaign flatly denies any connection) -- contends Halter doesn't meet the Constitution's seven-year residency requirement. Halter testified that he'd maintained vote registration here and in other ways met the legal standard for residency, though he's been educated and held jobs out of state for most of the last two decades.
Judge McGowan said she'd try to rule on the case by tomorrow. Voting is underway.
Among those watching with interest: Republicans. If a court rules that seven continuous years of residency are required immediately before a candidate runs, there's a certain gubernatorial candidate, name of Asa Hutchinson, who might have a headache. Unlike Halter, Asa was even registered in Virginia for a time during the last seven years.
UPDATE: comment from Bud Jackson of the Halter campaign:Today we learned from [Plaintiff John Mark] Mr. Clement's testimony that his personal attorney, George Hopkins, referred Mr. Clement to his trial attorney Joe Woodson. Mr. Hopkins contributed $1,000. to Mike Hathorn's campaign. Mr. Woodson's also law firm contributed to Mr. Hathorn's campaign, as well. We also learned from Mr. Clement's testimony that Woodson's law firm is providing their services for free. Reasonable people will conclude that this is not simply a concerned voter but a deliberate attempt to exploit the court system to subvert the voters right to choose their next Lt. Governor. UPDATE II: A comment from former legislator George Hopkins, mentioned above. Mark Clement is a lot smarter and more informed than some of the insiders in Little Rock think. He graduated from high school at Ouachita High school in Donaldson 30 years ago today. He stays informed and knows his rights. He has been involved in following local politics for at least 25 years. I am amused by the implication that a man from rural Arkansas cannot read and have serious concerns about his political rights. Ironically, Mr. Halter's transfer of hundreds of thousands of dollars to his campaign made Mark Clement take interest in the first place. Mark Clement did not like the idea of a person buying an office after arriving on the latest jet. Further at the time he made his concerns known, he did not know the name of Hathorn.