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story.lead_photo.caption Joshua Bryant Candidate State Representative District 96

ROGERS -- Political newcomer Jill Bryant of Rogers is running unopposed for a state House seat in a special election.

Her election is set on the same day and on the same ballot as the Nov. 3 general election that may result in her husband being chosen to succeed her.

To explain:

State Rep. Grant Hodges, R-Rogers, resigned his House District 96 seat July 10 to accept a job at Northwest Arkansas Community College. He previously announced he wouldn't run for reelection.

Joshua P. Bryant, a Benton County justice of the peace, announced for the office as a Republican. He was unopposed in the March 3 party primary. Democrat John Comstock is running against him.

Hodges' resignation triggered a special election under state law to fill the vacancy. Gov. Asa Hutchinson set the special election for the same date as the general election, avoiding the added expense to the county of a special election on a different date.

The winner of the special election cannot take office until the election results are certified, Benton County Clerk Betsy Harrell said Wednesday.

"So we figure the winner will serve about 41 days," Harrell said, between the election and when the winner of the general election takes office in January.

Sitting justices of the peace, under state law, cannot run for an office if they would have to resign from their current term to accept the new position, Joshua Bryant said Tuesday evening. So his wife, Jill, volunteered to run for the temporary tenure so Republicans would have a nominee in the race, he said.

No Democrat nor other Republican filed for the office in the special election. With no opposition on the ballot, Jill Bryant is set for about a six-week spell as a state legislator.

"It's ludicrous, but that's politics," Harrell said.

The situation generated both some laughs and groans at a reconvening of the Benton County Republican Party convention Tuesday night, which took place to fill that and another vacant nomination on the quorum court. The audience was told Democrats insisted the governor call a special election, then failed to come up with a candidate.

"I wish we could tell the governor what to do," Michael John Gray, chairman of the Democratic Party of Arkansas, said Wednesday. Hutchinson is Republican.

"The governor has to call a special election when there's a vacancy," Gray said. "He only asked the parties if we wanted a convention to pick a candidate or a special primary. The Republicans wanted a convention, and we went along with it. But it is true we didn't get a candidate."

So now Benton County will add Jill Bryant to the Nov. 3 ballot, where she and her husband will both be candidates for the same state legislative seat but won't oppose one another.

"I don't know that we needed one more little straw on the camel's back," Harrell said of the addition, taking place while the county is trying to print up ballots and conduct an election during the covid-19 pandemic.

Doug Thompson can be reached by email at [email protected] or on Twitter @NWADoug.

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