There are three Little Rock–area races for state House of Representatives in the May 20 primaries.
There's a battle among both Republicans and Democrats in House District 38, which starts in Riverdale and runs northwest to Roland and includes the heavy-voting Heights precincts. Republican candidates are Ed Linck and Kelly Eichler; Democrats are John C. Edwards and Jeff Dailey. Both primaries are drawing attention due to the amount of money being raised.
In House District 36, Darrin Williams is well-funded to take on fellow Democrat Charles King, who is running a grassroots campaign. The district takes in the Little Rock Port, the airport, the Hanger Hill neighborhood, downtown south of Interstate 630 and east of Izard, and a broad swath of the southwest section of the city.
In the Senate, former state Rep. Joyce Elliott will challenge incumbent Sen. Irma Hunter Brown in a District 33 Democratic primary. (See separate story.)
John Edwards, 47, a lawyer in private practice, says experience is what separates him from Jeff Dailey, his younger opponent. Edwards has also set himself apart in fund-raising: As of the latest reporting period, he had brought in $35,500, more than double Dailey's $16,067.
Despite the large campaign coffers, both men say they are focused on door-to-door campaigning. As they introduce themselves to voters, they both say, they discuss education and crime.
Dailey, 36, son of former Little Rock Mayor Jim Dailey, said he will look at things that can be done at the state level to reduce crime, such as strengthening probation programs and doing more alternative sentencing. In education, he would work for more after-school programs, universal pre-K, and improved access to higher education, perhaps through government-private sector co-operation.
Edwards said he wants to look at how to provide extra aid for the Pulaski County jail and better handle the high number of parolees in the county. Education, however, is his major issue. He said he would work to reduce class size in grades K-3, particularly in neighborhoods that aren't well off. He would also increase after-school programs.
Each candidate has experience in politics. Dailey, who works in public relations for Acxiom, was an aide to U.S. Sen. David Pryor and a writer in the Clinton White House. Edwards, who served in Iraq 2003-2005 with the National Guard's 39th Infantry Brigade, was also an aide to Pryor. He directed the USDA rural development agency in Arkansas during the Clinton administration.
As in the Democratic primary for the House seat, the race raises the issue of age: Ed Linck is 29, Kelly Eichler is 43. Eichler, a lawyer, also has the edge in politics, having worked in the administration of former Gov. Mike Huckabee. And, as is the situation in the Democrats' race, the opponents are mismatched in fund-raising: Linck had raised $5,392 to Eichler's $28,325. Eichler's total includes a $20,000 self-loan and $4,000 from Warren Stephens and Stephens Investments. Her husband is a Stephens executive. Linck noted that, despite lagging in dollars, he has more contributors overall.
Eichler boasts endorsements from prominent Arkansas Republicans, including her former employer. She said education is the most important issue to her. She added that as a legislator she would pursue pro-growth, pro-business tax policy and work to get rid of the grocery tax. She served on the state Board of Correction.
Linck currently works in sales for LTS Logistics. He is the co-founder and former executive director of the Arkansas Young Professionals Network and founder and chairman of Next Generation Young Professionals in North Little Rock. He is stressing education and crime — he wants to get the business community more involved in schools and improve the situation at the county jail. He counters Eichler's endorsement firepower with a thumbs-up from Larry Betz, head of the Little Rock Kickball Association.
Though neither Darrin Williams, 39, nor Charles King, 51, has served in the statehouse before, they have political experience. Williams, a lawyer, was chief of staff for Mark Pryor in the Attorney General's office and once worked for the Democratic National Committee. He counts the support of every state representative in Little Rock, as well as that of incoming House Speaker Robbie Wills. Williams said this support puts him in a strong position to be an effective legislator. King countered that he is the best option because of his long experience in the district. He also is a former member of the Pulaski County Election Commission and former president of the State Democratic Black Caucus.
Williams, who has received the endorsement of the Central Arkansas Labor Council, said he would focus on job training so residents can take advantage of opportunities in the growing manufacturing corridor around the airport. He also wants state government to work with faith-based organizations to address homelessness.
King, who operates Minority Consultants Inc., has pledged to address community concerns, including the racial achievement gap in public schools. He said he would grant greater authority to the Capitol Zoning District Commission in order to preserve historic areas of the Quapaw Quarter. He also wants to establish an advisory council to recommend measures to be pursued in the legislature, and a district work day, during which residents could volunteer on community projects.
If King is to succeed, he'll have to do it with shoe leather. He avoided the $3,000 filing fee by claiming the Democratic Party's hardship provision and had raised only $1,475 as of the latest reporting period. Williams had raised nearly $40,000 in contributions. He noted that about a third of his contributions under $200 came from within the district.