LITTLE ROCK — Several candidates on Arkansas’ primary ballot won races or made it into runoffs despite recent legal or financial problems, including a state legislator who was convicted of fleeing from police.
State Sen. Bruce Holland, R-Greenwood, won a primary race three months after pleading no contest in Perry County Circuit Court to charges that he fled from a sheriff’s deputy who tried to stop him for speeding in January 2011.
He was fined $890 and ordered to perform 80 hours of community service for fleeing, careless driving and improper passing, all misdemeanors.
In Tuesday’s GOP primary, Holland survived a challenger from former state Rep. Rick Green of Van Buren. Holland will face state Rep. Tracy Pennartz, D-Fort Smith, in the November general election.
Also fending off a primary challenge this week was state Sen. Steve Harrelson, D-Terxarkana, who defeated state Rep. Larry Cowling of Foreman.
Police were called to the home of Harrelson’s ex-wife in May 2011 after Harrelson was involved in a fight with a male friend of his ex-wife. No charges were filed in the incident.
Harrelson will face Republican Jimmy Hickey Jr. of Texarkana in the general election.
State Sen. Joyce Elliott, D-Little Rock, won a primary challenge from state Rep. Fred Allen, D-Little Rock, and has no Republican opponent in the fall.
Elliott resigned April 30 from an $80,000-a-year job as director of the Central Little Rock Promise Neighborhood. She had held the job since Sept. 1 but resigned amid questions about whether she was violating a state law that prohibits sitting legislators from taking state jobs.
Elliott also had tax liens filed against her last year for unpaid state taxes.
Q. Byrum Hurst of Hot Springs, who has liens filed against him for unpaid state and federal taxes, finished second in the Democratic primary in the 4th Congressional District.
Hurst will face state Sen. Gene Jeffress, D-Louann, in a June 12 runoff. The winner of the runoff will face Republican Tom Cotton of Dardanelle in November.
“I think what you’re seeing there is a willingness of the voters, at least in primaries, to differentiate between a public performance and a private performance, and that’s something voters across the country have shown a willingness to do,” said Hall Bass, a political science professor at Ouachita Baptist University.
Holland’s case stands out from the others as the only one involving a criminal conviction.
“I think (the primary) was more of an ideological battle,” said Jay Barth, a political science professor at Hendrix College, noting that Holland was seen as more conservative than Green.
In some cases, candidates who had legal or financial troubles were defeated, including state Sen. Jack Crumbly, D-Widener, who lost a primary challenge to state Rep. Keith Ingram, D-West Memphis. Ingram has no Republican opponent.
In 2010, a former substitute teacher in the Earle School District, where Crumbly was superintendent, accused him of exposing himself to her. State police investigated the allegation and did not pursue charges.
In 2011, the state Board of Education classified the Earle district as fiscally distressed because of declining fund balances and internal control problems that were identified in an audit. The Earle School Board chose in 2011 not to renew its contract with Crumbly, who had been on suspension since the previous year.
Also losing a race this week was state Rep. Ed Garner, R-Maumelle, who has had liens filed against him for unpaid state taxes. Garner lost to state Rep. David Sanders, R-Little Rock in a GOP state Senate primary. Sanders will face former state Rep. Johnny Hoyt, a Democrat from Morrilton, in November.