Tweet of the Week
"THANK YOU to everyone in Little Rock, Arkansas tonight! A record crowd of 12K."
— Donald Trump, after last Wednesday's rally at Barton Coliseum, which was attended by far fewer than 12,000 people. Ralph Shoptaw, the general manager of the Arkansas State Fair, took the stage before Trump's speech to announce the crowd supposedly broke an attendance record of 11,451 set by a ZZ Top concert in 1974. But all visual evidence pointed to the contrary: Barton's combined seating and floor capacity is 10,195, yet entire sections of seats remained mostly empty and the floor was only about half full.
Romneycare comes to Arkansas
The state's largest agency has a new head: On March 1, Cindy Gillespie will replace John Selig as director of the Arkansas Department of Human Services. Gillespie was counselor to Mitt Romney from 2003 to 2006, when then-Gov. Romney passed his landmark health reform bill in Massachusetts. Gillespie also served as senior adviser on Romney's 2008 presidential bid, then worked as a health care consultant for two D.C. law and policy firms in the years that followed.
Don't tell Arkansas Republicans, but "Romneycare" provided the model for "Obamacare." (Because GOP dogma now holds the Affordable Care Act to be an assault on all that is good about America, Mitt has had to distance himself from his signature policy accomplishment in Massachusetts.) That means Gillespie's appointment is good news for fans of the private option: As a key architect of Romneycare, she'll likely be a good steward of Medicaid expansion in Arkansas. Gillespie doesn't come cheap, though: Her salary will be $280,000, far more than the $162,000 paid to Selig. It will be the highest compensation for any state agency head — although, just to keep some perspective, it's far less than what coaches at the University of Arkansas bring home. Bret Bielema's annual salary? $4 million.
Oh, the irony
The first dark money TV advertisement targeting Arkansas Associate Supreme Court Justice Courtney Goodson began airing this week. The ad, produced by Washington's Judicial Crisis Network and part of a $336,000 buy, attacks Goodson for accepting campaign contributions from trial lawyer groups and an Italian yacht trip from a corporate contributor, something the Times has written about before. It also cites recent reporting in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette looking into Goodson's finances. "The Democrat-Gazette calls Courtney Goodson 'the ultimate insider,'" a male voice ominously intones. "Italian getaways, enriching trial lawyers — call Courtney Goodson and tell her to fight for Arkansans, not trial lawyers." So in sum, a dark money group, its donors shrouded by a loophole protecting supposed "social welfare" nonprofits, is spending boatloads of cash to launch attack ads criticizing Goodson's history of dubious financial backing.
Throw the book at them
Prosecutors in Arkansas County filed charges last week against three Georgia men in a case in which one of the men was caught on video beating a live white-tailed deer with an accounting textbook as the animal lay injured in the backseat of a car. The video circulated on the Internet late last month, stirring public outrage and sparking an investigation from wildlife officials in both Arkansas and Georgia. Joshua Rewis, 20, was charged with misdemeanor cruelty to animals. Cody Jones, 25, and Travis Strickland, 25, were charged with criminal aiding and abetting.
Polling the Arkansas primary, by the numbers
With less than three weeks to the primary and judicial elections in Arkansas, new statewide polls by Hendrix College and Talk Business and Politics were released over the weekend. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Hillary Clinton are the favorites among their respective parties. In the Arkansas Supreme Court races, meanwhile, sizable pluralities of voters remain undecided.
27% — Ted Cruz
23% — Donald Trump
23% — Marco Rubio
11% — Ben Carson
4% — John Kasich
4% — Carly Fiorina
1% — Jeb Bush
1% — Chris Christie
6% — Don't know
57% — Hillary Clinton 25% — Bernie Sanders 18% — Don't know
32% — Judge Dan Kemp 31% — State Supreme Court Justice Courtney Goodson 37% — Don't know
28% — Judge Shawn Womack 22% — Clark Mason 50% — Don't know