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Candidates for state posts trickling in

Bids expected this week by Michael R. Wickline | December 7, 2009 at 4:45 a.m.

— With the candidate filing period for the 2010 election still three months away, the array of announced candidates is growing.

Springdale’s Mark Darr said he intends to announce this week his bid for the Republican nomination for lieutenant governor.

Republican Rep. Mark Martin of Prairie Grove said he plans to make up his mind after Christmas whether to run for secretary of state.

So far, no Republican has announced an intention to run for any of the seven constitutional offices, all held by Democrats.

The marquee race of the 2010 election likely will be for the U.S. Senate, a race in which seven Republicans seek to be nominated to try to defeat Democratic Sen. Blanche Lincoln of Little Rock.

Darr, owner of pizza restaurants in Little Rock and Rogers, has form ed a committee to explore the possibility of running for lieutenant governor, a job held by North Little Rock Democrat Bill Halter, who was elected in 2006 over then-state Sen. Jim Holt, another Republican from Springdale.

The lieutenant governor serves as acting governor when the governor is out of state and presides over the state Senate.

According to the exploratory committee’s latest filing Nov. 25, it raised $11,426 and spent $9,739 through October.

Darr, who hasn’t previously run for an elected office, said he plans to both formally announce his candidacy and his campaign manager this week.

He plans to offer “a conservative alternative” and push for the state government’s Web site to have a “state checkbook,” similar to Alaska’s, to allow the public to see where taxpayer dollars are being spent.

Halter, a business consultant and former Clinton presidential administration official, has repeatedly said he plans to seek re-election,although he has refused to explicitly rule out challenging Lincoln in the Democratic primary in May.

He led the campaign for Amendment 87, which nearly 63 percent of Arkansas voters approved last year, to authorize the General Assembly to create state lotteries for college scholarships. The lottery began Sept. 28.

Darr said he voted against Amendment 87, but he doesn’t plan to spend time trying to persuade lawmakers to repeal the law.

Martin, who has been a member of the House since 2005, is barred from re-election under the state’s term limits amendment.

He has been considering running for secretary of state for about three weeks, he said.

Martin is an engineer.

Secretary of State Charlie Daniels, a Democrat from Bryant, has said he’s running for state auditor next year. He is barred from re-election by the term-limits amendment.

Three Democrats - Land Commissioner Mark Wilcox of Wooster, Pulaski County Circuit/County Clerk Pat O’Brien of Jacksonville and Sebastian County Clerk Doris Tate of Fort Smith - have announced for secretary of state.

In Arkansas’ 1st Congressional District, Kenton Adler of Batesville said he’s running as a Green Party candidate for the seat held by Democrat Marion Berry of Gillett. Republican Rick Crawford of Jonesboro also has said he’s trying to oust Berry.

Among other things, Adler, who is the academic computing coordinator at Lyon College, said he supports a single payer health-care system, and pulling American troops out of Afghanistan and Iraq.

Seventeen state Senate seats, including 13 held by term-limited senators, are up for grabs in next year’s elections.

Last year, state Sen. Jack Crumbly, D-Widener, survived the first-ever election contest filed in the Arkansas Senate. The Senate voted 19-12 for a divided panel’s recommendation that Crumbly retain his District 16 seat despite allegations that he won the seat in a 2006 Democratic party runoff over former state Rep. Arnell Willis, D-Helena-West Helena, because of election fraud.

Willis said he’s exploring the possibility of running for mayor of Helena-West Helena rather than challenging Crumbly again next year.

He said he’s backing former state Sen. Alvin Simes,a Democrat from Helena-West Helena, for the Senate seat Crumbly holds.

Simes, an attorney, served in the Senate from 2001-03 and chaired the Senate Transportation Committee. Steve Higginbothom of Marianna ousted Simes in the Democratic primary in 2002.

Other recent developments in races for state House of Representatives seats:

Little Rock Democrats Odies Wilson and Charity Smith and Little Rock Republican Carolyn Ann Smith said they are running for the House District 34 seat held by term-limited Rep. Wilhemina Lewellen, a Democrat from Little Rock. Little Rock Democrat Terry Hollingsworth has said she’s running for the seat, too.

Term-limited Sen. Tracy Steele, D-North Little Rock, said he’s running for the House District 39 seat held by North Little Rock Democrat Richard Carroll, who won the seat as a Green Party nominee but later switched parties.

Conway Republican Stephen Meeks said he’s challenging state Rep. Eddie Hawkins, D-Viola, for the House District 47 seat.

Morrilton Democrat Tommy Thompson said he’s seeking the House District 60 seat held by Rep. Johnny Hoyt, DMorrilton. Hoyt is running for the Senate District 18 seat occupied by term-limited Senate President Pro Tempore Bob Johnson D-Bigelow.

Arkansas, Pages 7 on 12/07/2009

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