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The Insider July 21

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Gorilla in the mist The Democrat-Gazette carried a long article Tuesday about some of the many people, including members of the Little Rock City Board, interested in a race for mayor -- particularly if Jim Dailey decides not to run for another term. One critical detail was missing – a potential 800-pound political gorilla. City Director Dean Kumpuris, the godfather of downtown redevelopment efforts, is seriously considering a race if Dailey does not run. He’s received some business community encouragement. Both Dailey and Kumpuris are meditating on their political futures this week – Dailey in Colorado and Kumpuris on a fishing trip to Canada. If Kumpuris runs. he likely will have an impact on the availability of financial support for other candidates. That factor alone could decide things for several. Kumpuris, like a couple of other potential candidates, Barbara Graves and Joan Adcock, would have to give up his existing board seat to seek the mayor’s office, which is elected citywide and requires 40 percent of the vote to win. Directors Michael Keck and Stacy Hurst also are thinking about the race instead of seeking re-election. Former state Sen. Bill Walker is making mayoral noises, but his candidacy for the nominally part-time job is complicated by questions about his current state parole board patronage slot and coming renewal of a contract he has for food service at Little Rock National Airport. State politics State Rep. Marvin Childers told his hometown newspaper in Blytheville this week that he would not seek the Republican nomination for attorney general in 2006, as had been expected. Childers mentioned the likelihood of a primary battle as one reason not to run. Former Sen. Gunner DeLay of Fort Smith, who’s campaigned in Republican-heavy Northwest Arkansas before, is talking about running and that would be a stiff challenge for someone from Northeast Arkansas. Leon Johnson, a black lawyer in Little Rock who served briefly as interim attorney general by appointment in 2002, is also rumored to be interested in running as a Republican. He told us he wasn’t prepared to comment. Grocery gossip This is strictly rumor mill stuff, but Whole Foods Market, the super trendy upscale organic market, has reportedly been in Little Rock within the last couple of weeks to consider the possibility of adding a store here. And another rumor circulates that Wild Oats could be looking for a new or additional location, maybe at the long-planned shopping center on University Avenue across from Park Plaza. Maybe all the talk stems from this. Lou Schickel has posted a sign on his Highway 10 development at Pleasant Ridge saying a Fresh Market will rise there along with a Parisian department store, though we didn’t notice any dirt being moved. Fresh Market is an east-of-the-Mississippi chain that appears from its website to offer fresh produce, gourmet items and prepared foods. We still guess: 1) Whole Foods is the latest version of the Neiman-Marcus urban myth that plagued Little Rock for years; 2) Wild Oats isn’t going anywhere, and 3) Fresh Market may or may not open on Highway 10.

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