Andy Mayberry, a Republican candidate for lieutenant governor, has called on Lt. Gov. Mark Darr, also a Republican, to resign over ethics issues.
“In light of the recent findings of the Arkansas Ethics Commission and the Legislative Audit Committee, I believe it is in the best interest of the state of Arkansas for Lt. Gov. Darr to vacate his position,” Mayberry, R-Hensley, said in a prepared statement on Thursday (Jan. 2). “I hope he will take this action soon. In his role presiding over the Senate, I believe Lt. Gov. Darr’s presence during the upcoming fiscal session could prove to be an unnecessary distraction as the legislature hopes to focus its full attention on other important issues facing our state.”
The legislative fiscal session is set to begin next month.
Mayberry joins the Republican congressional delegation and Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe in calling for Darr to step down. Mayberry said he has spoken with Darr on the telephone about the issue. (Mayberry, right, is pictured during an appearance last year on “5NEWS Sunday Morning” with 5NEWS Managing Editor Larry Henry.)
On Dec. 31, Beebe called Darr and asked him to quit, but Darr declined the request, stating he would stay in office, according to Beebe’s spokesman Matt DeCample.
The Democratic governor’s request for the Republican second-in-command to step down came one day after Darr agreed to pay $11,000 in fines. The state Ethics Commission found probable cause Darr had violated 11 state campaign and ethics laws dating back to 2010.
In the wake of the ethics ruling, Darr admitted he erred on campaign finance filings, signed a letter from the Ethics Commission that admitted guilt, and agreed to pay the fines.
After the call from the governor, though, Amber Pool, a spokeswoman for Darr, said the lieutenant governor had no intention of stepping down.
Beebe’s resignation call only holds symbolic weight. The popular governor has no authority to force Darr out because both are independent constitutional officers for the state of Arkansas. According to the governor’s spokesman, Matt DeCample, only the state Legislature can force Darr to resign.
After the call with Beebe, Darr attempted to move past the call for his resignation in a prepared statement.
“The mistakes I made have been well documented,” he said. “My focus now is on making things right with the people of Arkansas.”
Darr was elected lieutenant governor in 2010, defeating Democrat state Sen. Shane Broadway. Darr has not indicated whether he will seek re-election in 2014.
In August, Darr declared his intention to run for the open U.S. House seat in Arkansas’s 4th Congressional District that’s currently held by Republican Rep. Tom Cotton, who’s decided to challenge Democrat Mark Pryor for his U.S. Senate seat.
Shortly after his announcement, however, left-leaning Arkansas blogger Matt Campbell began to report improper spending by Darr’s 2010 campaign. Because of these questions over campaign finances, Darr called off his congressional campaign less than a month after declaring.
Term-limited, Beebe cannot run for another term in the 2014 gubernatorial race.
Another Republican state House member, Charlie Collins of Fayetteville, also is running in the lieutenant governor’s race in the 2014 election, as is Democrat John Burkhalter.
Mayberry said the decision to ask Darr to step down was difficult because he appreciates Darr’s “strong conservative stance on a number of issues.”
“Conversely, I cannot simply overlook the fact that the penalty levied by the Arkansas Ethics Commission against Lt. Gov. Darr is the strongest in that agency’s history,” Mayberry said. “I do not believe his actions are as egregious as those of other public officials such as Democrats Martha Shoffner, Paul Bookout and Hudson Hallum, all of whom have recently resigned amidst scandal. However, the cumulative effect of these elected officials being charged with ethics violations in such short order has moved the bar regarding Arkansans’ confidence in their elected office-holders.”
If Darr resigns, a special election would determine the interim lieutenant governor, but that person would have to win the regular November general election in order to serve a full four year term. As current elected officials, Mayberry and Collins would be barred from running in the special election. Some political observers believe a well-financed candidate such as the Democrat Burkhalter would have an advantage in the regular November election, if he won the special election, because he could run as an incumbent.
“I acknowledge that if Lt. Gov. Darr resigns, a special election might be held to fill the vacancy,” Mayberry said. “I also recognize that as a sitting state representative, I would not be eligible to run in a proposed special election. From a personal perspective, I understand that traditional political wisdom would indicate that Mark Darr’s resignation might diminish my own opportunities to win a general election against an incumbent elected during a special election. In the end, though, we all have to do what we believe is the right thing and accept the outcome, whatever that may be. It is imperative that we return trust to the public arena if our Republic is to survive.”