Senate President To Take Over Resigned Lt. Gov’s Duties

Legislature

The State of Arkansas’ Senate president will take on the role of lieutenant governor, following former Lt. Gov. Mark Darr’s resignation last week, according to a statement released Wednesday.

Michael Lamoureaux, the president pro tempore of the Arkansas Senate, said the state’s constitution stipulates he take on the lieutenant governor’s duties. Lamoureaux will supervise the employees in the lieutenant governor’s office, but he said he will not take on a new salary for the position.

Lamoureaux also said he will not sign legislation or utilize the services of the Arkansas State Police, duties usually employed by the lieutenant governor.

“On Monday, we will begin our fiscal session,” Lamoureaux said. “With many important issues facing the State of Arkansas, I ask for my colleagues’ patience as we work through this issue of first impression.”

Darr submitted his letter of resignation Friday to the Arkansas Secretary of State’s Office, which made his resignation effective Saturday. The act completes a resignation process that began Jan. 10, when Darr first announced his resignation following pressure from political leaders after he admitted to campaign spending missteps.

Gov. Mike Beebe said last week that legislators have shown him a draft bill that would give him the discretion on whether to call the special election for Darr. House and Senate leaders said they would rather keep the office vacant, since the election will be in November.

Darr said he made unintentional mistakes in reporting campaign expenditures, in collecting travel reimbursements and in using the state credit card.

Those issues are “not worthy of my removal from office,” he initially said in a prepared statement earlier this month.

Darr stepped back from those comments a few days later, sending out a statement announcing his resignation from office, in which he said, “Politics can be a toxic business.  I will no longer subject my family to its hard lessons.”

The statement later reads, “I have been honest, forthright and acted with integrity. I made mistakes, but not one with malicious intent.” (See the entire statement below the story)

State lawmakers in Northwest Arkansas reacted to the news earlier this month. Rep. Greg Leding (D-Fayetteville) said Darr made the right decision and kept himself from becoming a distraction for a legislature working its way through a fiscal session.

“My first reaction on hearing the news was relief. No one is happy we are in this situation,” Leding said. “No one saw this as a partisan situation. This was a regrettable situation.”

Sen. Bart Hester (R-Cave Springs) said he believes Darr has been honest throughout the situation and is owning up to his mistakes.

“I think Mark made the right decision. It’s been something he has been dealing with for several weeks now,” Hester said. “Since this started, he’s been honest and forthcoming.”

Darr is fresh off of resignation, but Leding said he would not be surprised if the lieutenant governor were able to continue his involvement in state politics in the future.

“I think in politics, there are always second acts,” Leding said.

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.

Republican state Reps. Charlie Collins and Andy Mayberry are running in the lieutenant governor’s race in the 2014 election, as is Democrat John Burkhalter.

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