Two lawyers with experience in government jobs are seeking the District 38 seat in the state House of Representatives, which covers the northern boundary of Little Rock, with the Heights neighborhood on the east, west to Roland.
John Edwards, who was state director for rural development for the U.S. Department of Agriculture during the Clinton presidential administration, is the Democratic nominee. Kelly Eichler, who worked as legal counsel to former Gov. Mike Huckabee, is a Republican, though she has downplayed her affiliation by omitting it from her campaign website and campaign signs.
Edwards served with the 39th Infantry Brigade in Iraq; he has been in private practice since 2005.
Eichler has served on the state Board of Correction and is president of Forest Park PTA, which has produced a formidable group of volunteers for her.
Eichler has taken a progressive position on incarceration reminiscent of Huckabee's: She believes prison is not necessarily the appropriate penalty in drug convictions. “We need to quit locking people up that we're mad at and lock people up that we're scared of,” she says. “We need to look at expanding our drug courts and getting treatment for those that have addiction problems. That will free up some space for those that are violent and need to be kept away from society.”
Edwards says the protection of the Lake Maumelle watershed — a hot issue in the 2005 legislature — is a priority. “It's not just environmental,” Edwards says. “If an area doesn't have a good supply of water, it's not going to be good for the local population and it's not going to be good for future economic development.” In 2005, the legislature defeated a bill that would have stripped Central Arkansas Water's authority to condemn land in the Lake Maumelle watershed, a bill put forward by developers.
Edwards said he knows Arkansas lawmakers from his tenure with the USDA, and that that will be an advantage in the legislature. Both candidates have ideas to improve public education. For Eichler, it's teacher pay; for Edwards, smaller class sizes.
Both campaigns have raised more than $70,000. According to financial disclosure forms, employees and executives of the investment banking firm Stephens Inc. have contributed $26,235 to Eichler's campaign (her husband works for Stephens). Eichler has loaned her campaign more than $45,000. She also received a $2,000 contribution from Huckabee's PAC, Hope for America.
Edwards received contributions from lawyers, Entergy, Alltel and railroad sources.
The district has always had Democratic representation, though the outgoing representative, David Johnson, had a close race against a Republican in winning his first term.