Democrats File Suit To Stop Filling Of Republican Washington Co. Judge Candidate Vacancy
WASHINGTON COUNTY (KFSM) — The Democratic Party of Arkansas and Tyler Clark, Chairman of the Washington County Democrats filed a lawsuit Wednesday (July 20) against the Washington County Republican Committee, Republican Party of Arkansas State Committee and Washington County Clerk Becky Lewallen.
The lawsuit stems from the withdrawal of Republican Washington County Judge candidate Micah Neal.
The Washington County Republican Committee is seeking to replace Neal with another candidate by calling a county convention in August, but the lawsuit is seeking to stop that process.
Neal officially withdrew from the election July 8, but his withdrawal had been the subject of news reports on July 30 and July 1, according to the lawsuit.
In those early reports, Neal is quoted as withdrawing because he is returning to the private sector after having a discussion with his family about continuing a family business called Neal’s Cafe, the lawsuit states. Neal also states he will be moving to Benton County to be near that business, according to the lawsuit.
In the July 8 letter submitted to the county clerk, Neal writes he will not be able to run for office because he will be moving at the beginning of August.
Arkansas law allows a vacancy to be filled if the original candidate dies, has a serious illness, moves out of the area where he or she was nominated, or files for another office. The party or candidate must then notify the governor within five days and the governor will issue a proclamation allowing the party to hold another primary or a special convention to fill the vacancy.
The lawsuit claims Neal’s withdrawal does not meet the conditions explained above because he refused the nomination for family and business reasons. It states Neal subsequently changed his reason for the withdrawal to a possible future move out of Washington County after telling at least two journalists he was refusing the nomination for family and business reasons. Neal mentioned the possible move to Benton County only after his original reason was legally insufficient to allow Washington County Republicans to nominate another candidate in his place, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit also claims Neal had not moved out of Washington County as of the date of his withdrawal and an unspecified future moving date does not meet the requirements laid out by state law. It also argues Neal did not meet the five-day-notice requirement after deciding to refuse his party’s nomination.
The lawsuit asks a judge to rule that the Washington County Republican Committee cannot fill the vacancy and that the Washington County Clerk and Board of Election Commissioners turn down any candidates who want to fill the vacancy.
Neal had been the only Republican candidate in the March 1 primary, therefore he won the nomination of the Republican Party.
Mark Kinion won the Democratic nomination during the primary and is currently the only candidate for Washington County Judge.