Quote of the Week
"I will never, ever hold her again, but I forgive you. And have mercy on your soul."
— Nadine Collier, daughter of 70-year-old Ethel Lance, one of the nine victims of last week's massacre at Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, S.C. Collier spoke at a bond hearing for Dylann Roof, the 21-year-old lone wolf white supremacist who committed the act of racial terrorism against parishioners at the historic black church.
Aftershocks of Charleston
The hate crime at Emanuel A.M.E. has sparked something of a regional reckoning with racist symbols such as the Confederate flag (see columns, opposite page). But as important as symbols can be, money is more so. A number of prominent Republicans now have returned donations from Earl Holt III, the leader of a white supremacist organization called the Council of Conservative Citizens, which was cited by the South Carolina gunman as an inspiration for his rampage. On Monday, U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton gave back $1,500 in contributions from Holt, saying, "I do not agree with his hateful beliefs and language and believe they are hurtful to our country."
Farewell to Justin Harris — well, eventually
Rep. Justin Harris (R-West Fork) announced last week that he's decided not to seek re-election in 2016. The announcement comes months after the Arkansas Times first reported on the "rehoming" of two young girls the legislator and his wife, Marsha, adopted in 2013. In a brief interview with a Northwest Arkansas TV station, Harris said that he and Marsha had already discussed the possibility of not running for a fourth term, but acknowledged the rehoming controversy "definitely has a little ... to do with it." Between now and the end of 2016, Harris will still collect some $60,000 in legislative salary and likely tens of thousands more in per diem.
The agony of polling
New polling from Talk Business, Hendrix College and Impact Management Group drives home the point that Arkansas can be a lonely place to be a progressive.
Fifty-four percent of likely voters said that a business that provides wedding services — such as a florist or caterer — should be allowed to refuse to serve same-sex couples; just 29 percent said such discrimination should not be allowed.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson's job approval numbers stand at 52 percent approval, 18 percent disapproval. Perhaps because of his nonstop saber-rattling, U.S. Sen Tom Cotton is more divisive: 44 percent approve of his performance, 39 percent disapprove.
And, in a (very) hypothetical 2016 presidential matchup between Hillary Clinton and Mike Huckabee, Clinton loses Arkansas by a margin of 37 percent to 51 percent. Huckabee shouldn't get too excited, though: Hillary actually performs slightly better against Huck than she does against a generic Republican.
Trump up the jams
It seems too good to be true, but true it is: Donald Trump will be the keynote speaker at the annual fundraiser held by the Republican Party of Arkansas this summer in Hot Springs. "Mr. Trump brings a very unique dimension to next year's democratic process as a private entrepreneur and business leader," RPA chairman Doyle Webb explained.
Yes, unique — that is accurate! Let's just let Trump speak for himself with these gems from his speech announcing his candidacy last week:
— "I will be the greatest jobs president that God ever created."
— "I don't need anybody's money. It's nice. I don't need anybody's money. I'm using my own money. I'm not using the lobbyists. I'm not using donors. I don't care. I'm really rich; I'll show you that in a second."
— "When Mexico sends its people, they're not sending their best. ... They're sending people that have lots of problems and they're bringing those problems with us. They're bringing drugs, they're bringing crime, they're rapists, and some, I assume, are good people."
Arkansas's prison population, by the numbers
Last week, Wendy Ware, a consultant who's been analyzing Arkansas's prison growth for 20 years, told a legislative task force that the state's prison population will top 20,000 in 2017 under a best-case scenario projection. For some perspective, here are historical numbers on the Arkansas Department of Correction's inmate numbers over the past 40 years.
June 3, 2015: 18,681
The recent leap has largely been the result of changes made to parole rules in 2013. In 2012, ADC took in 1,633 parole violators. In 2013, it took in 3,671. "I can't stress how substantial [of an increase] that is," the consultant told the task force. "In fact, I've never seen anything like it in my career."