The Little Rock mayor’s race got wild last week. How wild? People were talking not about crime but food blogger Greg Henderson.
Over a 40-hour period this past week, only these things happened:
• The snark-rich liberal investigative blog called the Blue Hog Report unveiled records of communications gathered under the Freedom of Information Act. They called into question whether the Frank Scott administration was telling the truth about the extent of overlap between the mayor’s former chief of staff and that chief of staff’s hiring by a consulting firm chosen to assist in a festival the mayor’s office is trying to put on this month.
• The mayor called the city board into executive session to deal with charges of inappropriate racial remarks by City Attorney Tom Carpenter, apparently in the context of conducting a teaching session on things not to say. The board deferred action.
• The Blue Hog, namely lawyer Matt Campbell, came back with another post about sponsorship money for the aforementioned festival getting funneled to a startup charity affiliated with the firm hired to help with the festival that hired the chief of staff.
• Carpenter, the one under fire and the apparent subject of the executive session, got quoted as saying there were deleted emails at City Hall on the subject of this festival.
• Baker Kurrus published an op-ed guest essay in this paper leveling a broadside on Scott for cronyism, secrecy, extravagance and arrogance. He also gave a rather full-throated endorsement to retired car mogul Steve Landers, a make-Little Rock-great-again candidate. Kurrus had previously told me only that Landers was the better choice, which I took as muted praise, meaning better than Scott, who defeated Kurrus in a runoff two years ago.
By Thursday, people in Little Rock were speaking in lamentations–that Scott was a good person facing generational resistance more than racial resistance, largely because of his strong-mayor style and vision, but had just made a mess of things by going out of his way to avoid forthrightness; that the attacks on Scott would be seen in the Black community as racist; that there might be racial overtones in some of older white folks’ support of Landers and his themes, but not all; and that maybe Landers really simply wanted to fix Little Rock, to keep it from becoming Jackson before carrying on à la Scott about making it into Austin or Nashville.
I thought of all the well-meaning white people four years ago who were charmed by Scott’s campaign story that, as a Memphis University graduate working on Mike Beebe’s gubernatorial staff, he’d not known how to get to the Hillcrest section of Little Rock to join staff colleagues after hours for drinks and sushi. He’d never been north of Park Plaza.
Now he knows how to get to the fine eateries. He just calls his police chauffeur/protectors, which a Little Rock mayor has not had before.
So, about Greg Henderson and his window of getting talked about …
He’s a fine low-key young family man living in central Little Rock, engaging in progressive community activism, doing small-business consulting and publishing an informative local food blog called Rock City Eats.
He is a third candidate for mayor. There actually is a fourth, Glen Schwarz, a perennial candidate who is entertaining at candidate forums.
Henderson has policy substance; he easily held his own with Scott, and certainly with Landers, in a candidate forum a few weeks ago.
But he’s burdened by political inexperience and low personal profile. He’s the kind of candidate people don’t consider seriously because they’ve never heard of him and thus give him no chance. And they won’t ever hear of him unless he runs credibly for something, which is hard to do without any attention.
Henderson did graduate with a political science degree from Ouachita Baptist, which means he matches in qualifications for mayor those for governor of Sarah Sanders.
So, all of these goings-on are mildly positive for Henderson in a strict political sense, with people opting to give him a look, at least until they realize that a vote for him would be a vote taken from Scott, meaning one to help elect Landers.
That’s where a ranked-choice voting system would help. Let’s say voters ranked the four candidates one through four, with a point system applied–let’s say three points for being ranked first, two for second, one for third, and zero for last.
Scott and Landers, being polarizing figures, would get a lot of 1s for 3 points but also a lot of 4s for no points. I’m thinking Henderson might get a ton of 2s for two points.
Let’s take a simple look: Scott gets a first-place vote and a last-place vote, for three points; Landers gets the same; Henderson gets two second-place votes for … well, what’s two times two? I believe you call that first place.
After a wild week of throat-stalking in Little Rock politics, permit a lover of peace a tiny flight of fancy.
John Brummett, whose column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, is a member of the Arkansas Writers’ Hall of Fame. Email him at [email protected] Read his @johnbrummett Twitter feed.
Print Headline: A wild time in old town
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