by Max Brantley
At the anti-smoking news conference today, reporters asked Gov. Huckabee about plans, if any, for calling a special election to fill the vacancy in the lieutenant governor's office.
He said there was "no urgency" to do so and said he had received no encouragement from any quarter to act.
He noted that then-Gov. Jim Guy Tucker had taken nearly four months to act on filling a vacancy created when he rose to the office after Bill Clinton's election as president, even though the legislature was in session and some two years remained on the vacant lieutenant governor's term. He remembered that the Republican Party sued to prompt action (the resulting election put Huckabee in office and you know the rest of the story). He noted that succession circumstances are better today because of his good relationship with the next two in line to handle gubernatorial duties -- Sen. President Pro Tem Jim Argue and House Speaker Bill Stovall. Things were not so solid in 1993. Remember the wildly controversial pardons issued by Sen. President Jerry Jewell when Tucker left town in 1993 for Bill Clinton's inauguration?
Huckabee said he thought it was still a time to continue the process of mourning the death of Win Rockfeller. He said he intended to take his time on a decision and to eventually hear from leaders of both political parties.
In all, it sounded as if Huckabee has all but made the decision not to have a special election. But, in response to a question, he insisted he was not leaning in any direction. He said he just hadn't considered the question yet and repeated that he'd felt no urgency to do so.
We're back to betting no election.
Oh, and yes, he confirmed the sale of his Lake Greeson house for $346,000. He said he had thought it was worth more, in that it was now a 2,800-square-foot house, improved since he bought it for $151,000, and that lakefront property had enjoyed a surge in value. He said he would miss owning it. He jovially asked me if my Hillcrest home had risen in value since I'd bought it. I hope so.
One other point: Huckabee said he couldn't clear up the question we raised about the $9,500 in-kind donation of a plane flight reported on his recent PAC financial form. It was listed in the name of Stardust Aviation, not the name of the company that owns the plane on which Huckabee flew to North Carolina. That plane is owned by a company headed by Ted Suhl, the operator of a Medicaid-rich treatment facility, the Lord's Ranch, in northern Arkansas. Huckabee said he simply couldn't say if that was one in the same plane flight. (Suhl has told an AP reporter that he loaned his plane to someone else who made an in-kind donation to Huckabee's PAC. Who? Not clear. It is clear that Suhl's pilot flew the plane to North Carolina and the incident report filed on the plane's emergency landing listed a phone at Suhl's place in Warm Springs.)
Huckabee insists that it's up to accountants to fill out reports properly and that he was sure that had been done. If the reports don't answer all the questons reporters have, well, sorry.