Sample replaces Bookout as co-chair of Legislative Council


LITTLE ROCK — The Senate membership of the state Legislative Council on Tuesday named Sen. Bill Sample, R-Hot Springs, as Senate chairman of the committee to replace former Sen. Paul Bookout, D-Jonesboro, who resigned from the Legislature last month.

Sample had been serving as the committee’s Senate vice chairman. The senators named Sen. David Johnson, D-Little Rock, to replace Sample in that position.

Also during the meeting, held via conference call, Senate President Pro Tem Michael Lamoureux, R-Russellville, said Bookout would be replaced as vice-chairman of the Senate Public Health, Welfare and Labor Committee and the Senate Efficiency Committee by the committee members of highest seniority. Those members are Sen. Linda Chesterfield, D-Little Rock, and Sen. Cecile Bledsoe, R-Rogers, respectively.

Bookout, who had served in the Legislature for 13 years, resigned after the state Ethics Commission fined him $8,000 and reprimanded him for converting thousands of dollars in campaign contributions to personal use. A special prosecutor was appointed to investigate Bookout’s campaign finances after Craighead County Prosecutor Scott Ellington recused, citing personal and professional conflicts.

Gov. Mike Beebe has set a Jan. 14 special election to fill Bookout’s Senate seat. The primary election will be Oct. 8 and the primary runoff election, if necessary, will be Nov. 12.

Seeking the Democratic nomination for the office are Raduis Baker of Jonesboro, superintendent of the Valley View School District; former state Rep. Ray Kidd, a Democrat from Jonesboro; Steve Rockwell of Jonesboro, who manages his family’s publishing companies; and former state Sen. Gene Roebuck of Jonesboro.

Vying for the Republican nomination are Jonesboro residents John Cooper, a retired AT&T executive; Chad Niell, CEO of Tiger Correctional Services; and Dan Sullivan, CEO of Ascent Children’s Health Services.