FAYETTEVILLE -- Every Democrat and Libertarian invited to a Washington County candidate forum attended Monday, but no Republicans did.
"I'll show up," Democratic nominee Josh Moody said, gesturing to the empty chairs beside him at the head table, while giving his qualifications to be Washington County judge. His opponent, county Quorum Court member Patrick Deakins, was one of the five Republican candidates in the five races featured in the League of Women Voters of Washington County forum. The event began at 5:30 p.m. at the Fayetteville Public Library.
Besides all five Democrats, the two Libertarians who are candidates in the featured races also participated.
Early voting begins Oct. 24. Election day is Nov. 8. Today is the last day to register to vote in time for this election.
Moody said he opposes the county sales tax increase proposed by the Quorum Court and put on the general election ballot. The proposal calls for a bond issue of up to $113.5 million for the jail expansion and another bond issue of up to $28.5 million for the juvenile courts expansion. The bonds would be paid for by a temporary 0.25% sales increase that will expire when the bonds are paid.
The Quorum Court paid for a study to find alternatives that would be more effective and cost less, then ignored those options for more than two years, Moody said. His opponent is the Quorum Court's Finance Committee chairman, Moody said. "He's had 26 months to do those things, and he's done nothing," Moody said.
Senate District 31 candidate Lisa Parks, a Democrat, said the Republican Party has become unresponsive to many of the state's needs since it gained a super-majority in both chambers of the Legislature. Republicans hold 27 seats in the 35-member Senate and 76 seats in the 100-member House. Parks' opponent is Rep. Clint Penzo, R-Tontitown.
There is no Democrat running in the Senate District 35 race. Libertarian nominee Doug Peterson of near Prairie Grove said he ran because whichever major party is in power, its legislators "do what the party wants them to do. They're not representing us in a way that makes me feel represented." Whichever party is in power writes rules, regulations and law to benefit themselves, their party and their donors, he said. Peterson's opponent is Tyler Dees of Siloam Springs.
The only race with two candidates to discuss their contest Monday was state House District 9. Libertarian candidate Steve Stilling and Diana Gonzales Worthen, a Democrat, participated. Republican DeAnna Hodges did not attend. All three candidates are from Springdale.
Both Stilling and Worthen said they hoped to reduce partisan tensions in the Legislature. Worthen said she is experienced in finding common ground and understanding because of her career in teaching and her years of helping the diverse groups in the district find common cause. Stilling said he was not going to take sides with either of the major parties against the other. "Talk to everybody like they were a human being," he suggested.
Paula Irwin of Springdale is running as a Democrat in House District 19 against Republican Steve Unger, also of Springdale. "The biggest problem is that the parties are not working together," she said of the Legislature. Arkansas teachers need a pay raise, she said. The raises being discussed by legislators now would still leave Arkansas behind Mississippi in teacher pay, she said.
The next league candidate forum is Oct. 19, also at the library at 5:30 p.m.