Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge said she will announce her bid for re-election today and that she hopes to continue challenging the federal government’s regulations if voters in 2018 grant her another four-year term.
No one else has publicly stated an interest in the job. She plans to file a campaign finance report today detailing early fundraising.
In an interview from her office last week, the Republican said Arkansans are worried about regulations that affect everything from small businesses to utility bills.
“I have been much more engaged with other attorneys general around the country,” Rutledge said. “Arkansas is now a leader, and we have gotten off the sidelines in lawsuits that involve overreaching federal agencies.”
She also said her office has been more accessible to the state’s residents than past attorneys general, and plans to continue doing so.
“We are here to help you. If you have been taken advantage of, if you believe you have dealt with a con artist, or scam artist, or bad business, call us and let us do the fighting for you,” she said. “Most people don’t know where to turn to get help and I want them to know, turn to us, and we will help you.”
Rutledge has been known for her opposition to various federal regulations. She has opposed rules that aim to reduce carbon pollution from power plants, expand Environmental Protection Agency protection to more waterways and expand the number of workers eligible for overtime pay.
She said she is now looking into new U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service critical habitat rules.
Rutledge said the costs to utilities, farms and small businesses as a result of the regulations negatively affect Arkansans.
Other constitutional officers have supported Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, but Rutledge has gone on national television as a surrogate for him.
Asked about recordings released last week in which Trump bragged about being able to grope women because of his celebrity status, she said she would not defend or condone his comments.
“I think Americans are focused on the issues,” she said. “It would be great, from my perspective, if the media focused on the issues that Americans cared about.”
In her nearly two years in office, Rutledge said new initiatives have targeted veterans affairs, metal theft prevention and missing people. She said she has also held mobile office sessions in every county in Arkansas and spoken to thousands of Arkansans about how to be safer online.
Inside the agency, she has separated the state agencies division — which handles legal work for state boards and commissions — from the attorney general’s civil department.
“I felt it was important for those lawyers to have the same gravitas and be given the same amount of focus as our criminal division, because they do play an important role,” she said.
Her predecessor as attorney general, Dustin McDaniel, forced payday lenders to quit operating in the state. In the past several months, Cashmax, a new business that facilitates small, short-term loans, has opened locations in North Little Rock and Hope.
Rutledge has declined to comment on the business thus far, and her office has previously invoked a law that governs confidential information related to ongoing investigations under the Deceptive Trade Practices Act.
“We are prohibited by law from disclosing any information,” she said.
Judd Deere, a spokesman for Rutledge, said she had raised about $72,000 for her re-election campaign so far.
Asked why she announced her campaign more than two years in advance of the election, Deere said in an email: “It is important for the Attorney General to make her intentions known so that Arkansans know that she enjoys the job, is honored to serve and wants to continue to serve.
“There will be a number of people up in 2018 and announcing at this time provides the Attorney General time to visit with Arkansans and share her ideas and vision for a second term.”
Rutledge, who has a drafting table from a great uncle in the corner of her office and uses her father’s old desk, described her father’s influence upon her career goals.
“He was a lawyer and a prosecutor and circuit judge. His philosophy was always do the right thing, so I’ve pretty much had that same philosophy, and it makes the days go by very easily,” she said of her father. “He’s had a great deal of influence.”
NW News on 10/17/2016
Print Headline: Rutledge: Will run again in '18, release early fundraising report