SPRINGDALE -- Kevin Flores, elected Tuesday to the City Council, said he intends to serve everybody in the city despite his status as possibly the first Hispanic elected to the body.
Meanwhile, City Council member Kathy Jaycox wants to stop serving, but finds herself forced into a runoff.
Voters turned the Ward 2, Position 2, seat over to Flores, who received 12,427 votes for 57% of the votes. His opponent, incumbent Rick Evans, got 9,241 or 43%.
Flores said he initially just wants to experience the council and is eager to learn about city operations. A list of elected officials in city government going back to 1971 includes no names commonly identified as Latino. The record is kept in the city clerk's office.
"I did not run because I am Hispanic or an immigrant," Flores said. "I plan to represent everybody. But it is important as we are pushing a 40% Hispanic population."
Evans said he's disappointed by Tuesday's results, but proud of the race he ran and the 20-plus years of service to the city.
"What we've been able to accomplish during that time is remarkable and should stand as a testament of what can be done when you put people over politics," Evans said.
Evans issued an apology in July after being heard in a City Council livestream referring to Flores as "some little Mexican lawyer."
Irvin Camacho on Thursday filed a lawsuit against Evans, claiming Evans' campaign material made xenophobic, false and defamatory comments about Camacho, three candidates for the City Council and one candidate for Washington County Quorum Court.
Camacho is a Northwest Arkansas activist known for his work in the areas of immigration reform, bail reform and employment rights.
Flores wouldn't comment on Evans' actions during the campaign.
"I ran as a candidate that has ideas and is well-qualified," he said, "I wasn't going to let anybody knock me off my issues."
Infrastructure, downtown development and future growth, he repeated.
Jaycox in August filed for reelection to the Ward 4 seat she held for 22 years. In September, she announced she was pulling out of the race and would retire at the end of her term Dec. 31. Jaycox said she is planning to move out of the ward. But the ballots for the election were set before her announcement, and Jaycox's name couldn't be removed.
Jaycox received 7,040 votes or 34% of the votes. Mark Fougerousse got 7,986 or 38%. A third candidate, Derek Van Voast received 5,850 voters or 28%.
A candidate in a municipal election with more than two challengers can win outright with a majority, which is 50% plus one vote. Or, a candidate can win with 40% of the vote by being ahead of the second-closest candidate by at least 20%. Otherwise, the two top vote-getters compete in the Dec. 1 runoff.
"Can I pull out? Can I call him and tell him I concede?" Jaycox said.
Daniel Shults, director of the Arkansas Board of Election Commissions, said the election must go on.
"The voter still has the right to vote and to decide," he said.
If Jaycox wins, but has resigned, the seat is vacant and the City Council will fill it. Jaycox said she will take no action to promote herself for the runoff.
The runoff election is set for Dec. 1. Residents of both counties will vote in the Springdale runoff because the city crosses the border between Washington and Benton counties. The entire city votes in each council race, although the representative must live in the ward he seeks to represent.
Jennifer Price, executive director of the Washington County Election Commission, said the Springdale vote would cost from $10,000 to $15,000, depending on how many polling places are open.
Laurinda Joenks can be reached by email at [email protected] or on Twitter @NWALaurinda.