by Max Brantley
Absent any statewide political races -- save those on ballot issues -- attention may turn this year to some down-ballot contests. One is the high-dollar race for state Senate in Conway between incumbent Republican Gilbert Baker and Democrat Joe White.
Near me, the sign crews have been hard at work on the open seat for House District 38 between Democratic John Edwards, a lawyer, war vet and nice guy who won a runaway Democratic primary victory. On the other side is Republican Kelly Eichler, another lawyer who is best known by me as one of the forces against public accountability during the administration of Mike Huckabee. She was an advisor and legal counsel to Huck. She has a strong campaign organization thanks to friends in the Forest Park PTA,which she has led, and her strength in that neighborhood is indicated by a heavy yard sign count in the neighborhood. The district runs a good bit farther west than Republican-friendly Edgehill and Prospect Terrace (and this precinct never went for Mike Huckabee.) Eichler's website never mentions that she's a Republican, though she does mention her time with Huck. Edwards notes his Democratic Party membership on his website and his yard signs (see photo).
A quick money snapshot: Eichler had $31,389 on hand as of the Aug. 18 report. Edwards had about $20,000 on Aug. 15. Both have raised more than $70,000 so far to win primary races and get ready for November. Eicher loaned her campaign more than $40,000 of her own money and among her contributions is a notable amount, almost $18,000 at least, from Stephens financial empire employees and their lobbyists. Eichler's husband works for Stephens. She also got one of the rare contributions from Huckabee's Hope for America PAC, nominally formed to support other political candidates but actually used mostly to elevate his own public profile. LR School Board member Melanie Fox, a neighbor and Forest Park PTAer, also kicked in $2,000 each for the primary and general election. Edwards' money includes a number of contributions from lawyers (some big-name firms dot Eichler's list, too) and several PACs, including money from energy, Alltel and railroad sources.