Faulkner Circuit Judge David Clark
STILL ON BALLOT: Margaret Darter, who admitted dishonest action as county clerk, is running for office again.
today ordered that the election for Faulkner County clerk
proceed but that votes not be counted until he decides at a hearing the day after the election whether Republican candidate Margaret Darter
is unable to serve because of the crime that forced her to resign the job earlier this month.
According to Chris Burks, lawyer for the Democratic Party in a challenge of Darter's candidacy:
The judge will have a hearing at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday, Nov. 9, to decide if the misdemeanor obstructing governmental operations charge amounts to an infamous crime under the Arkansas Constitution and disqualifies her in this election. Past candidates have been ruled off for misdemeanor hot check violations.
Darter has admitted dishonestly changing the filing dates on public official ethics forms so they wouldn't appear to have been filed late. She resigned from office and accepted a misdemeanor conviction with a $500 fine, but continued as a candidate for election. The two-member Republican majority on the county election commission has ventured into uncharted territory for an election commission by declaring her qualified to run. The commissions don't exist to judge candidate qualifications but to hold elections.
Burks reported another interesting happenstance: Republican Rep. Doug House, whose north Pulaski legislative district edges into Faulkner, went up and talked to the judge after the hearing, Burks said. House is a lawyer, but he made no formal appearance in the case. Burks learned of this after the fact and said he didn't know if House and the judge discussed the case or the weather. It's hot in Faulkner County.
Penny McClung, a Democrat, is running for the office. If Faulkner County voters should decide to elect her over somebody who resigned for dishonest conduct if the office, the scheduled hearing wouldn't be necessary. The judge's decision today doesn't take away the opportunity for voters to do the right thing. To the best of my knowledge, no Republican official in Arkansas has said dishonest conduct of office is a disqualifier in this case.