What happens when Texas becomes a purple state?

Democrats, Alabama, blue wave, school boards, Hixson, Breanne, red tide, judicial electionsBy Steve Brawner, © 2019 by Steve Brawner Communications, Inc.

Arkansas is now dominated by Republicans, so the outcomes of most of next year’s elections aren’t in doubt here. Our neighbor, Texas – that’s where things are getting interesting.

Texas, formerly one of the country’s reddest states, is turning a shade of purple, with potentially huge electoral consequences for the entire country.

The state has 36 House members, nine times as many as Arkansas. Twenty-three are Republicans and 13 are Democrats, and both senators are Republicans.

But four Republican House members have recently announced they are retiring – three of them in competitive districts, which is no coincidence. The latest, Rep. Kenny Marchant, is leaving office after eight terms in a Dallas district after being re-elected with only 50.6% of the vote last year.

Prior to that, Rep. Will Hurd, the only African-American Republican in the House, and one of two in Congress, announced he is not running for re-election. A critic of President Trump who represents a district on the Mexican border, he was re-elected in 2018 by fewer than 1,000 votes. Continue reading What happens when Texas becomes a purple state?

Hendren ‘not telling them no’ in 2022 governor’s race

Jim Hendren, tobacco taxBy Steve Brawner, © 2019 by Steve Brawner Communications, Inc.

Could Jim Hendren be Arkansas’ next governor? He thinks so. I told him it would be an uphill climb.

The state Senate president pro tempore from Gravette in Northwest Arkansas said he’s being encouraged to run in 2022. He said supporters approve of what Gov. Asa Hutchinson and Republican legislators are doing. And he’s not discouraging their interest.

“I am beginning to travel some and to meet with some folks and have those discussions about the challenges that we face and the things that we can bring to the table to be successful,” he said while traveling on business Monday. He later added, “I guess what I’m saying is I’m not telling them no at this point. I’m having those discussions.”

Hendren joked during a recent dinner speech at the National Conference of State Legislatures that he was declaring his candidacy – against his sister, state Rep. Gayla McKenzie, R-Gravette, for her office. When the women in the audience chanted her name, he told them he instead would run against his uncle for president.

That would be Hutchinson, who recently said a White House run is “on the table.”

Hendren’s name has been mentioned often concerning the 2022 governor’s race, but not as the first name on the list. Lt. Governor Tim Griffin is definitely running for governor, and Attorney General Leslie Rutledge is considered a possible opponent. Continue reading Hendren ‘not telling them no’ in 2022 governor’s race

After more mass shootings, would red flags help?

By Steve Brawner, © 2019 by Steve Brawner Communications, Inc.

If we can’t agree about violent video games, or Hollywood’s negative influence, or whether any of this is the president’s fault, can we at least agree that it should be harder for mentally ill people to purchase semi-automatic weapons?

Well, not yet we can’t, unfortunately.

The question arises after another series of American-made mass shootings. On Aug. 3, a 21-year-old killed 22 people at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas. Early the next morning, a 24-year-old killed nine people, including his own sister, in Dayton, Ohio.

The shootings occurred only days after Drew Grant, 33, died in a traffic accident near Cave City July 27. Grant had changed his name – he was born Andrew Golden – apparently hoping to escape his past. He could not.

At the Westside Middle School near Jonesboro on March 24, 1998, Golden, then 11, and Mitchell Johnson, 13, pulled a fire alarm and then hid in the woods like snipers while the students and teachers gathered on the playground. Then they murdered fellow students Paige Herring, Stephanie Johnson, Brittney Varner and Natalie Brooks, and teacher Shannon Wright. Continue reading After more mass shootings, would red flags help?

If a legislator doesn’t have to pay all his taxes, then why should we?

By Steve Brawner, © 2019 by Steve Brawner Communications, Inc.

In light of what’s been happening lately at the State Capitol, average citizens might be asking a simple question: If a legislator doesn’t have to pay all of his taxes, then why should we?

I’m referring to the case of Rep. Mickey Gates, R-Hot Springs, who is still in office despite pleading no contest July 29 to charges of failing to pay his taxes in 2012. Gates must now pay the state $74,789 for money owed from 2012-14, and a hearing will determine what he owes for 2015-17 . As part of his plea agreement, prosecutors dropped additional charges related to his failure to file tax returns from 2013-17.

That six-year period is bad enough, but his record of tax evasion actually is much longer. Authorities have said he owed the state almost $260,000 in taxes, interest and penalties after not filing a return from 2003-17. But he was not charged for those earlier years because the statute of limitations had run out.

Even after his no contest plea, he is refusing to resign, despite calls for him to do so by Gov. Asa Hutchinson, Speaker of the House Matthew Shepherd and others.

Hutchinson said that if Gates won’t resign, he should be removed from office, which can happen under the Arkansas Constitution with a two-thirds vote of the House of Representatives.

However, the Legislature likely will not meet again until next year. Hutchinson could call it into special session to expel Gates, but his spokesman told me he has no plans to do so. Continue reading If a legislator doesn’t have to pay all his taxes, then why should we?