Pine Bluff Mayor Debe Hollingsworth said Monday she was “angry and was venting” when she said last Friday that she would be filing a lawsuit against the Jefferson County Election Commission on Monday after the commission voted to place the name of former mayor Carl A. Redus Jr. on the ballot as a candidate for mayor in the May 20 Democratic party primary.
“We’ve had meetings all weekend and come up with a couple of strategies,” Hollingsworth said. “We’ve decided to focus on what’s best for Pine Bluff and not to focus on a person, or a position or an election.”
The commission decision goes against opinions from the Secretary of State’s Office and Prosecuting Attorney S. Kyle Hunter, the legal adviser for the commission. Both those opinions said there should be no mayor’s election until 2016 and were based on a ruling by Circuit Judge Jay Moody in a 2012 lawsuit that Redus filed against Patricia Johnson, the Jefferson county clerk. In that failed lawsuit, Redus sought to prevent the counting of votes in the 2012 mayor’s race and extend his second four-year term by two years.
Hollingsworth was elected mayor in November 2012, avoiding a runoff in a field of nine candidates. Redus finished second but trailed Hollingsworth by more than 5,300 votes.
Redus contends that Arkansas Statute 14-43-305 requires a change in the election cycle for cities with a populaton of less than 50,000 residents. Pine Bluff’s population dipped below that threshold in the 2010 federal census.
“I think it’s imperative that we get clarification of the statute for the citizens of Pine Bluff,” Redus said Monday. “We’re going to go forward and see what happens.”
Moody said in his ruling that a decrease in a city’s population has no effect on the timing of that city’s mayoral elections.
On Monday, Redus said he believed the citizens of Pine Bluff are “entitled to be treated the same as other first class cities” whose population is under 50,000.
He specifically mentioned Jacksonville, Forrest City, Maumelle and North Little Rock, all of which have mayoral elections this year. None of those cities, however, have ever had a population that exceeded 50,000.
The decision to place the mayor’s race on the ballot was made by former Redus aide Ted Davis, who is now chairman of the Jefferson County Election Commission. Davis, who is also chairman of the Democratic Central Committee for Jefferson County, was Redus’ chief of staff during his tenure as mayor.
“Anybody who is doing what they’re doing does not have the best interest of the city at heart,” Hollingsworth said. “They don’t have anything close.”