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Little Rock lawyers Leslie Rutledge and David Sterling don't differ much ideologically as they seek the Republican nomination for Arkansas attorney general. Both are vowing to use the office to fight the federal government, and say they'll continue to defend the state's same-sex marriage ban, abortion restrictions and voter ID law as they're being challenged in court.

The two are instead locked in an increasingly acrimonious fight over each other's experience and conservative bona fides as they approach Tuesday's primary runoff election, the only statewide contest on the ballot.

Rutledge, 37, a former lawyer for the Republican National Committee and ex-Gov. Mike Huckabee, finished first in the May 20 primary against Sterling and civil-rights attorney Patricia Nation. But she fell short of the majority needed to secure the nomination outright. Sterling, 45, is a former assistant city manager of Hope who has worked in private practice for the past 15 years.

The winner of Tuesday's election will face Democratic nominee state Rep. Nate Steel of Nashville and Libertarian nominee Aaron Cash this fall. Democratic Attorney General Dustin McDaniel is barred by term limits from seeking re-election this year.

Rutledge has enjoyed a fundraising advantage over Sterling and has the backing of top GOP figures such as Huckabee and former U.S. Rep. John Paul Hammerschmidt. But Sterling has been boosted by the assistance of outside groups. One group, Judicial Crisis Network, has been airing a television spot and sending mailers praising Sterling for proposing a "Stand Your Ground" law and chiding Rutledge for not advocating a similar measure. Stand Your Ground laws allow a citizen to use deadly force in self-defense instead of retreating.

"Arkansas Families need a 'Stand Your Ground Law', but Leslie Rutledge stands with Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi and Eric Holder," one of the mailers by the group says, referring to the U.S. House Democratic leader and attorney general.

Rutledge accused the group of "spreading lies" about her record and has denounced the ads. Sterling has said he didn't coordinate with the group or know about the ads before they aired, and said he doesn't see anything inaccurate about them.

Rutledge, meanwhile, has criticized Sterling for representing a central Arkansas lingerie store chain that also sells adult movies and toys. Sterling represented Cupids Lingerie in a 2009 lawsuit the company filed against former managers who it accused of violating a non-compete agreement.

"He chose to take money from the pornography industry, and I think it's a contradiction of his being able to aggressively go after Internet predators if you've been the paid lawyer for and taken money from the pornography industry," Rutledge said.

Sterling called Rutledge's criticism offensive, and said representing Cupids doesn't make him a supporter of the porn industry. He declined to go into specifics about the case, citing client-attorney confidentiality.

"Now she's attacking my character, which is pretty despicable," Sterling said.

Sterling, in turn, has criticized Rutledge for voting in five Democratic primaries and for a $104.50 donation to the state Democratic Party.

"She's saying one thing and she's doing something different," Sterling said. "She's running as a lifelong Republican, but she's given money to Democrats and voted for Democrats. I've never done that."

Rutledge said she voted in the Democratic primaries so she could have a say so in races in which there weren't Republicans running. She said the donation was for a ticket to Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe's 2007 inaugural ball, something she didn't know at the time would be considered a donation to the party.

"I think he's just grasping at straws by trying to attack my Republican credentials," Rutledge said.

The two have also clashed over Sterling's proposal to restart executions in the state by using the electric chair while Arkansas' lethal injection law is being challenged in court. Sterling has said the electric chair, which hasn't been used in Arkansas since 1990, is a viable option for carrying out the death penalty. Rutledge has called the proposal irresponsible, noting that Arkansas' electric chair is currently sitting in a museum.


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  • carpenterretired
    June 6, 2014 at 1:23 p.m.

    If these two run into each other while carrying their hand guns the good news is the A.C.A. requires the coverage of gun shot wounds.

  • nwar
    June 6, 2014 at 2:04 p.m.

    What a sad spectacle.

  • aimee
    June 6, 2014 at 3:54 p.m.

    Two Republicans..??? A whole lot of hot air..!!!
    Oh, and that reminds me:
    "A woman in a hot air balloon realized she was lost. She lowered her altitude and spotted a man in a boat below. She shouted to him, “Excuse me, can you help me? I promised a friend I would meet him an hour ago, but I don’t know where I am.”
    The man consulted his portable GPS and replied, “You’re in a hot air balloon, approximately 30 feet above ground elevation of 2,346 feet above sea level. You are at 31 degrees, 14.97 minutes north latitude and 100 degrees, 49.09 minutes west longitude.
    “She rolled her eyes and said, “You must be an Obama Democrat.”
    “I am,” replied the man. “How did you know?”
    “Well,” answered the balloonist, “everything you told me is technically correct. But I have no idea what to do with your information, and I’m still lost. Frankly, you’ve not been much help to me.”
    The man smiled and responded, “You must be a Republican.”
    “I am,” replied the balloonist. “How did you know?”
    “Well,” said the man, “you don’t know where you are or where you are going. You’ve risen to where you are due to a large quantity of hot air. You made a promise you have no idea how to keep, and you expect me to solve your problem. You’re in exactly the same position you were in before we met, but somehow, now it’s my fault.”

  • ThinkFree
    June 6, 2014 at 4:19 p.m.

    More Political Humor
    A tourist walks into a curio shop in San Francisco. Looking around at the exotica, he notices a very lifelike life-sized bronze statue of a rat. It has no price tag, but is so striking he decides he must have it. He takes it to the owner: "How much for the bronze rat?" "$12 for the rat, $100 for the story," says the owner. The tourist gives the man $12. "I'll just take the rat, you can keep the story." As he walks down the street carrying his bronze rat, he notices that a few real rats have crawled out of the alleys and sewers and begun following him down the street. This is disconcerting, and he begins walking faster. But within a couple of blocks, the herd of rats behind him has grown to hundreds, and they begin squealing. He begins to trot toward the Bay, looking around to see that the rats now number in the MILLIONS, and are squealing and coming toward him faster and faster. Concerned, even scared, he runs to the edge of the Bay, and throws the bronze rat as far out into the water as he can. Amazingly, the millions of rats all jump into the Bay after it, and are all drowned. The man walks back to the curio shop. "Ah ha," says the owner, "you have come back for the story?" "No," says the man, "I came back to see if you have a bronze Democrat."

  • DontDrinkDatKoolAid
    June 6, 2014 at 8:38 p.m.

    And aimee still blames BUSH!!!
    I too am looking for a bronze Democrat.