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Insiders Oct. 28

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From pulpit to politics There’s an interesting new name on the political scene, another Baptist preacher with Republican leanings. Jim Lagrone announced this week to his flock at First Southern Baptist Church in Bryant that he’s resigning because he has plans that keep him from devoting undivided attention to the ministry. He confirmed to us that he’ll be testing political waters. A former Bryant school board member, Lagrone was elected twice, without a negative vote, as president of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention, the biggest religious denomination in Arkansas. He’s friendly with Doyle Webb of Lt. Gov. Win Rockefeller’s staff. Despite some similarity of backgrounds, he’s not known as an intimate of Gov. Mike Huckabee. Lagrone is not willing yet to talk specifically about the offices that interest him. He said the political picture could be clearer in December.That lends some support to the theory of Democrats that Lagrone is making plans to run for lieutenant governor soon if two things happen – George W. Bush wins election to a second term and Huckabee gets a job in the Bush administration, making Rockefeller governor. Cigars in the Oval Office? An irate Republican who called the Arkansas Times last week to complain about its cover endorsement of Democrat John Kerry said in the course of the conversation that he had placed two “Monica Lewinsky” cigars in the ceiling of the Oval Office replica in the Clinton Presidential Center. The caller, who identified himself as Steve DeLuna, said he wasn’t the only presidential center workman to have left behind expressions of disgust for the former president. (We’ve all heard about construction worker scribbles on beams and such.) Skip Rutherford, president of the Clinton Presidential Foundation, said project managers ran a tight ship and that it would be “highly unlikely,” if not impossible, for cigars to have been put in the ceiling of the office, which is concrete. DeLuna, a plastering crew foreman, reportedly told his bosses he’d just been popping off to the Times and had hidden no cigars. Grab your chopsticks Corporate mouthpieces remain mum, but the development community is buzzing with talk of new Asian eateries in the Little Rock market. Rumor is that the national P.F. Chang’s China Bistro chain is to replace Regas Grill at Shackleford and I-630 next year. The same national company’s informal Pei Wei Asian Diner is rumored to be slated for the midtown shopping center planned across from Park Plaza.

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