Mayoral candidate Debe Hollingsworth told a group of supporters at a Saturday morning rally that Pine Bluff residents should have the right to vote for mayor Nov. 6.
“As we see it, the fight is on for us to have an election,” she told about 35 people at her Regency Square-based campaign headquarters. “It is our constitutional right to be able to vote.”
However, due to a lawsuit that seeks to stop the November mayoral election, the exercising of that right comes down to the interpretation of the law, Hollingsworth said.
Citing an Arkansas law that governs when an election for mayor is held in cities of less than 50,000, an attorney for Mayor Carl A. Redus Jr. is asking a circuit judge to issue a restraining order that would prevent the election of a mayor this November.
U.S. Census data shows that Pine Bluff’s population fell to 49,083. Redus’ lawsuit says he should remain mayor until 2014, when Pine Bluff would hold its election for city leaders. Nine candidates, including Redus, are running for mayor this year.
Redus could not be reached for comment Saturday. However, he has said that he is not seeking to block the mayoral election this November but is simply looking to follow the law. He has also dismissed any claims that he is seeking to gain an advantage through delay. Redus has also said that he is prepared to run for re-election.
Hollingsworth said she believes the whole lawsuit is about retirement benefits.
“At the end of his term in 2012, he would have had 8 years. He needs two more years to qualify for retirement benefits,” she said.
However, she said voters should determine whether he deserves two more years in office and if he has performed to a level to benefit retirement.
She asserted that allowing people to vote in November and allowing them to vote in a mayoral election in 2014 would be minimal compared to the cost of retirement. She said she is fine with seeking the position and hopefully serving for two years.
“If you’re not doing a good job, then you would be worried about it,” she said.
Hollingsworth urged residents to write letters to the editor and take other steps to let their voices be heard on the issue. She said she is running for mayor because she is interested in taking Pine Bluff in a new direction and she had pledged to focus on five key issues: crime, city government, economic development, city image and education.
Resident Christal Green said residents need to ask themselves what type of job Redus has done since he has been mayor and that should determine if he remains on the job.
“How much has he accomplished for Pine Bluff?” she said.
Ben Trevino, Hollingsworth’s campaign manager, said people deserve to choose the person they want for mayor in November. “All we want is for the people to be able to make a choice,” he said. “The people should make the decision.”
Hollingsworth’s husband, Jack, agreed.
“We want an election – not a selection,” he said.