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story.lead_photo.caption State Rep. Bill Gossage, R-Ozark

State Rep. Bill Gossage, R-Ozark, is resigning from the House to start work as Gov. Asa Hutchinson's deputy chief of staff for external operations, Hutchinson said Tuesday.

Photo by Special to the Democrat-Gazette
Katie Beck

Then, two Republicans -- Sarah Capp of Ozark and Bobby Ballinger of Altus -- said they are seeking their party's nomination for the next term for the House District 82 seat, from which Gossage is resigning, in the Nov. 8 general election. Ballinger is the son of state Rep. Bob Ballinger, R-Hindsville.

Hutchinson also announced that the executive assistant to the governor, Katie Beck, will become the governor's new director of state-federal relations in Washington, D.C., starting Oct. 3.

The Republican governor's appointment of Gossage had been widely expected in legislative circles for at least two months.

On July 7, Hutchinson announced that he was creating two deputy chief of staff positions after the departure of his previous deputy chief of staff, Jon Gilmore, who left to create his own political consulting firm. At that time, the governor promoted his director of constituent services, Ateca Williams, to be his deputy chief of staff for internal operations.

Gossage has served in the House since 2013, and he has been the chairman of the House Management Committee. He is a retired assistant superintendent for the Ozark School District with 34 years of experience as an educator.

"Bill has been a longtime friend and adviser, and I have no doubt that his experience in education and his service in the Legislature will provide my office with wise counsel and guidance as we approach the 2017 general session," Hutchinson said in a written statement.

"Most importantly, though, Bill shares my vision for our state," the governor said. "As a former educator, he led the effort to help pass my landmark computer science education bill because he understands what it takes for our students to compete in a 21st century workplace. I am confident Bill will do an outstanding job in this new role, just as he's done for his constituents over the years."

House Speaker Jeremy Gillam, R-Judsonia, said Gossage's knowledge of the legislative process "will definitely help smooth a lot of communication between the executive branch and the General Assembly, and it's not that things were bad."

House Democratic leader Michael John Gray of Augusta said, "If the governor's goal is to strengthen his relationship with the Legislature, he could not have chosen a better person."

Gossage's salary will be $95,000 a year, said Hutchinson spokesman Kendall Marr.

"The governor will not call a special election to fill the remainder of [Gossage's] term. After Rep. Gossage provides notification that he does not intend to seek re-election, the party will be responsible for selecting a nominee to run in his place in the general election," Marr said.

Under Arkansas Code 7-7-105, a special election shall be held not more than 150 days after the occurrence of the vacancy.

"Since the position would be filled in less than 150 days, no special election is necessary," Marr said.

State Republican Party Chairman Doyle Webb of Benton will call a meeting of the party's executive committee on a date that hasn't been determined yet, said party spokesman Lauren Montgomery.

The party's executive committee members will set a filing period and a filing fee, and then there will be a convention of delegates to vote and certify that nominee to run for the seat, Montgomery said.

Marr said other political parties won't be able to nominate candidates for the seat in the Nov. 8 general election.

"If they did not field a challenger before the filing deadline, then they will not be able to run a candidate in this race," he said. Gossage was the only candidate to file in November for the House District 82 seat, which includes parts of Crawford, Franklin and Madison counties.

Capp, 37, said she operates a law firm in Ozark, serves as Altus' civil city attorney and was appointed by Hutchinson as a special justice to the state Supreme Court and the state Department of Finance and Administration's Board of Directors.

"I value the opportunity to continue representation for those in our district with the same conservative values that Rep. Gossage's esteemed leadership has served us in the past few years," Capp said in a written statement. "There are great things happening in our state and I have the compassion and desire to further those accomplishments."

Ballinger, 22, is a staff member for U.S. Rep. Bruce Westerman, a Republican from Hot Springs.

He said he and his wife also operate a graphics design company, raise cattle and help run the ministry of Fort Rock Family Camp in St. Paul, about 33 miles southeast of Fayetteville. He said he moved to Altus from Ozark, about 5 miles away, on Tuesday.

"My desire is to continue to be an advocate for the people of Arkansas, especially of District 82 and implement common-sense, non-burdensome [principles] when it comes to matters of business and personal liberty," Ballinger said in a written statement.

Meanwhile, Beck will fill the vacancy created after Hutchinson appointed Alison Williams, who had been the governor's director of state and federal relations, as his chief of staff effective June 1. Williams succeeded Hutchinson's first chief of staff, former state Sen. Michael Lamoureux, who departed at the end of May to work for a lobbying firm in Washington, D.C.

Alisha Curtis, the governor's director of special operations and special projects and executive assistant to the chief of staff, will replace Beck as executive assistant to the governor, Hutchinson said.

"Katie and Alisha's salaries have not been determined yet. We expect to have firm numbers closer to their start date on Oct. 3," Marr said. In their current jobs, Beck is paid $63,999 a year and Curtis is paid $62,539 a year, according to the Arkansas Transparency website.

Marr said the governor's senior health care policy adviser, John Martin, has departed the governor's office and has been replaced by Jarred Kibbey, a former senior technology analyst at the state Department of Health. His salary is $72,000 a year, Marr said. Martin, who was paid $89,999 a year in the governor's office, is returning to work for U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton, a Republican from Dardanelle, as a policy adviser.

Marr said Hutchinson hasn't filled former budget aide Marjorie Greenberg's post. Earlier this month, Greenberg departed to be the Arkansas Health Care Association's director of research and policy.

Metro on 08/31/2016

Print Headline: Two seek state House seat after lawmaker takes post


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