Democrat tells GOP to boot election commissioner who brandished gun

Instead, 2nd term on board on tap

State Democratic Party Chairman Vince Insalaco said Thursday that Republican Party Chairman Doyle Webb should replace Stu Soffer on the state Board of Election Commissioners, noting that Soffer brandished a gun during a dispute with a former Jefferson County election commissioner in April.

Instead, Webb said he's reappointing Soffer to serve a second four-year term on the board.

"Stu has always upheld and acted in accordance with the law," Webb said in a written statement.

Soffer of White Hall has served on the board since July 27, 2012, and his first term expires July 26, said board director Justin Clay.

In April, Soffer said he felt threatened after arguing with Theodis "Ted" Davis at a meeting of the Jefferson County Election Commission in Pine Bluff. Soffer got a derringer from his car but didn't fire the weapon. Police reviewed a video of the meeting and said Soffer never pointed the weapon at Davis.

"Violence and threats of violence have no place in our election process," Insalaco said in a written statement. "[P]ulling a gun on an unarmed man should disqualify Stuart Soffer from serving on any election commission, ever."

In his own written statement, Soffer responded, "Although Mr. Insalaco's contentions are incorrect, falsehoods actually, responding is above my pay grade and perhaps more appropriately addressed to Lauren [Montgomery] at RPA [Republican Party of Arkansas]." Montgomery is communications director of the state GOP.

The April incident has provoked calls for Soffer's removal from the county commission and the state board by Democratic civic leaders of Pine Bluff.

Webb noted that Soffer has been a Jefferson County election commissioner since 2003, is immediate past president of the Arkansas County Election Commissions Association and has represented the United States as an election observer in former Soviet republics in west Asia and eastern Europe.

"Stu is one of the most knowledgeable election commissioners in the state," he said in a written statement.

"Because of his commendable service in the U.S. Army and his overwhelming amount of experience with elections worldwide, Stu is a great asset to the Republican Party and election commissioners across the state. I am pleased to appoint Stu to serve a second term on the State Election Board. Stu is to be commended for his untiring work ... in seeing that election laws are enforced to secure fair and honest elections," Webb said.

He said Soffer's knowledge of Election Systems & Software electronic voting equipment in Arkansas is substantial, having trained more than 3,000 poll workers in 10 states as a contract trainer.

"It is an honor and privilege to continue as part of a great team working to improve elections in Arkansas. I sincerely thank all who supported my reappointment and the Republican Party of Arkansas," Soffer said in the written statement, issued by the Republican Party.

In response to Webb's decision, state Democratic Party spokesman H.L. Moody said, "Publicly pulling a gun on an unarmed man should disqualify Stuart Soffer from serving on any election commission, ever."

Davis could not be reached for comment by telephone Wednesday afternoon.

The state Board of Election Commissioners is comprised of seven members, including the secretary of state, two members appointed by the governor, and one member each appointed by the chairman of the Democratic Party, the chairman of the Republican Party, the Senate president pro tempore and the House speaker.

Other commissioners are Republican Secretary of State Mark Martin, Clark County Clerk Rhonda Cole, attorney James Harmon Smith III of Cherry Valley, former Grant County Election Commissioner C.S. Walker, attorney Chad Pekron of Benton and businessman Charles Roberts of Hot Springs.

The board develops resources to educate and assist candidates and county election administrators; conducts training programs; monitors compliance with federal and state election laws; investigates complaints of misconduct and violations; and distributes funds to the counties, according to its website.

A Section on 06/24/2016

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