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The politics of judicial elections


Judicial elections are becoming a hot topic, particularly since conservative, anti-gay groups funded a campaign to remove three Iowa Supreme Court justices from the bench last week because of their decision allowing same-sex marriage in Iowa.

The Arkansas Law Review will examine judicial elections in a program at 2:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 12, at the UA School of Law in Fayetteville. Circuit Judge-elect Wendell Griffen, a proponent of freer speech by judges, and Supreme Court Justice Robert Brown, a judicial election proponent, will speak in a session moderated by Chapman University law professor Ronald Rotunda. They'll talk about whether judicial speech should be regulated, whether fund-raising for judicial races should be handled differently than partisan political races, whether Arkansas should move to an appointment system, and about the impact of the Citizens United ruling that opened the election process to unlimited amounts of corporate spending. The session is free and open to the public.

Forgiving voters

Some were surprised that Berryville Mayor Tim McKinney won re-election last week over two opponents despite two brushes with the law. The mayor was twice arrested for DWI, both times with small amounts of marijuana. The second arrest landed him in the county jail for 53 days for violating probation on the first offense and then in drug court, an experience that saved him from a felony conviction that would have disqualified him from service. How did a two-time DWIer win without a runoff? Some clues are handy in reporting by Ginger Shiras in the Harrison Daily Times. McKinney is popular, a 20-year mayor. And he opened his campaign for re-election with a contrite acknowledgment of his mistakes. "Everyone has heard the old adage 'whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger,' and I know that I am now better prepared physically, mentally and spiritually to perform the duties of mayor than I have ever been," he said. There's also the fact that a Walmart and other regional retailers generate enough sales tax revenue that Berryville needs no property tax or utility franchise fees. The city has enough cash to build a $5 million community center with an indoor pool, a new fire station, yards of new sidewalks and miles of city trails. And he's been improving city streets as an alternate route to busy U.S. Highway 62. He'll presumably be more careful what he's consumed before driving on them.

Arkansas financed the red tide

Stephens Investments Holding LLC, controlled by Little Rock financier Warren Stephens, was among the contributors to American Crossroads, the Republican-supporting political group founded by Karl Rove, George W. Bush's political adviser. Its work was credited for helping many of the Republican congressional victories in last week's election. Stephens Holding contributed $100,000 to the Rove group.

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