JOHN BRUMMETT: The ritual begins anew

Posted: February 27, 2018 at 4:30 a.m.

It surely would be possible to file for public office remotely and electronically these days. The filing fees--much too high in Arkansas--could be dispatched through PayPal.

The only downside might be that a Russian in St. Petersburg could file as Bubba Trump, the president's newly discovered son, and sweep to the governorship.

But the live and in-person paperwork ritual remains as an homage to civic exercise in the public square.

Roby Brock of Talk Business and Politics urged me to drop by the rotunda of the state Capitol around noon Thursday for the opening of the week-long filing period for candidacies in the May primaries.

He said he wanted to interview me on how the contemporary experience compared to the ticket openings I'd covered in the 1800s.

I obliged him anyway. Banal age humor bothers me barely at all. For me, 64 is the new ... 62.

I'm a little like Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who took issue when a reporter suggested that his filing for re-election Thursday afternoon represented the last time he'd ever file for public office. A governor is limited to a second term, which Hutchinson was filing to seek.

The 67-year-old governor answered that you never say never, that he felt good and was ready to rumble.

He had to say that, I guess. He has the Gun Goddess to tangle with. You don't want to set yourself up as a lame old duck going decrepitly against a heavily armed woman certified in firearm instruction.

Hutchinson wondered if I remembered the filing period 32 years ago, in 1986. I did. It was on or about the time I moved from state Capitol reporting to column-writing, though some said they couldn't tell any difference.

That was when Asa, all of 35 and the Ronald Reagan-appointed U.S. attorney for the state's western district, rolled down from Northwest Arkansas to put up his Bob Jones University right-wing bona fides as the GOP sacrifice to U.S. Sen. Dale Bumpers.

Except that Asa was a competitive sort who seemed interested in winning--and who did, in fact, best Bumpers in a televised debate along the way.

One of Hutchinson's frequent refrains is about the woeful treatment of Republicans in those days--about the indignity he endured on the wild frontier of one-party Democratic rule before Republicanism became the safest thing, the golden thing, in Arkansas.

He's a bit like the parent talking about walking five miles to school across raging creek waters.

Hutchinson told a group of us Thursday that, after he filed that day in 1986, he asked anyone who was listening if any reporters were going to come around to interview him. He recalled that a TV reporter--the identity unimportant--asked what the point of that would be.

I interviewed Hutchinson a couple of days later at the Arkansas Gazette. I badgered him about having attended the then-segregationist Bob Jones University in South Carolina. I wondered how much he intended to impose his conservative religion on the rest of us if by some miracle he defeated the man regarded as the finest orator in the U.S. Senate.

I saw this young man named Asa as the alarming new Arkansas extreme.

Nowadays, as you know, there is an element of the Arkansas Republican movement calling Hutchinson practically a Democrat.

It's the story of the growing out-of-its-gourd demographic in Arkansas.

I saw a social media post the other day expressing outrage toward Hutchinson on the basis that I had written that he believes in making government work.

It could have been from a Russian, I guess.

The ticket-opening atmosphere was mildly frenzied. Candidates were lined up as if for a restroom at halftime of a Razorback football game in War Memorial Stadium, speaking of anachronisms.

Hutchinson was just a man in line, and well back. Among those ahead of him was Paul Spencer, the good government-minded teacher at Little Rock Catholic who is a Democratic candidate for Congress in the 2nd District.

"Just coming over to pat my head?" Spencer asked unpleasantly as I strode near.

You might recall that I greeted the 2nd District Democratic candidacy of state Rep. Clarke Tucker with a near-endorsement in which I made a special point to say that the previously announced Democratic candidates--Spencer and Gwen Combs, also a teacher--were nice candidates, too.

Spencer proposed that, if he wins, we'd have a public ceremony in which he'd call me nice and pat my head.

I said sure. I'm not going to pass up a chance to have someone call me nice in public.

In fact, he may pat my head and call me nice even if he loses.


John Brummett, whose column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, is a member of the Arkansas Writers' Hall of Fame. Email him at Read his @johnbrummett Twitter feed.

Editorial on 02/27/2018