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Fox in the henhouse

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A lengthy ballot means a lot of races for minor offices won't get the attention they deserve on election day. For example: races of the Pulaski County Quorum Court, the county governing body, rarely capture much attention.

Attention is deserved. A strong slate of Republican candidates is aiming for a Quorum Court majority and running on a platform of lower taxes and less regulation.

Regulation is even more pressing. The Quorum Court has been haggling for months over proposed land use rules for the Lake Maumelle watershed. They are intended to preserve the quality of the region's primary water supply. Republicans have generally fought the regulations, often invoking private property rights. Deltic Timber, the Chenal Valley developer and major landowner in the basin, has been a leader in the fight against strong watershed controls. It has linked up with Americans for Prosperity, the Koch billionaires' lobby group, in the fight. A leading operative in that effort has been Brent Stevenson Associates, a lobbying firm that represents Deltic, other timber industry clients, the Kochs themselves, the Koch-owned Georgia Pacific and the Pulaski County Property Owners Coalition, another opponent of land use rules.

Which brings us right to direct democracy and the Quorum Court. Chris Stewart, a lawyer, is a Republican candidate for District 3 in western Little Rock against former JP Kathy Lewison, a Democrat. Stewart was once a partner in the Stevenson lobbying firm and was registered in 2009 as a lobbyist for Deltic, as well as the Koch-owned Georgia Pacific. He has not responded to our questions on whether he'd vote on matters pertaining to the watershed and Deltic and the Koch lobby. Stewart was instrumental in two successful ballot proposals aimed at discriminating against gay people — one made same-sex marriage unconstitutional in Arkansas and the other made adoption illegal by same-sex couples, though that law was struck down in court. Stewart, a graduate of Jerry Falwell's Liberty University and the law school founded by televangelist Pat Robertson, is a former Mike Huckabee staff member.

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