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story.lead_photo.caption Frank Scott Jr. gets a round of applause from participants Wednesday as he is introduced as Little Rock’s next mayor at an Urban League of Arkansas event in North Little Rock. ( Arkansas Democrat-Gazette / Staton Breidenthal)

Mayor-elect Frank Scott Jr. won a historic race by building on a strong base south of Interstate 630 but securing votes across the city.

Scott faced attorney and businessman Baker Kurrus in a runoff election Tuesday night, ultimately netting 58 percent of the vote to become the city's first popularly elected black mayor.

The 35-year-old banker and associate pastor ran on a platform of unifying what many see as a divided city. He said the broad support embodied his campaign's mission.

"It was an emotional experience," he said of seeing the results come in. "We were just excited to have the far-reaching support that we had."

[CLOSER LOOK: Vote totals by precinct in Little Rock mayor's race]

Scott was raised and still lives in southwest Little Rock, which encompasses some of the city's poorest neighborhoods. He served as a senior adviser to former Gov. Mike Beebe and on the state Highway Commission, and has said his commute to his bank's headquarters in northwest Little Rock is a daily reminder of the city's divisions.

With all precincts reporting, the unofficial vote totals show that 22,622 ballots were cast for Scott in the runoff. Kurrus received 16,282 votes, garnering about 42 percent of the vote.

As he did in the general election, Scott prevailed in precincts south of Interstate 630, in downtown and in east Little Rock, according to the Pulaski County Election Commission. Kurrus carried large sections of west and northwest Little Rock, as well as parts of the Heights neighborhood.

Little Rock Mayor-elect Frank Scott Jr. gets a congratulatory hug Wednesday from Renee Goynes, banquet captain at the Wyndham Riverfront Hotel in North Little Rock, during the Urban League of Arkansas’ Whitney M. Young Jr. Awards luncheon.
Little Rock Mayor-elect Frank Scott Jr. gets a congratulatory hug Wednesday from Renee Goynes, banquet captain at the Wyndham Riverfront Hotel in North Little Rock, during the Urban League of Arkansas’ Whitney M. Young Jr. Awards luncheon.

In the general election, Warwick Sabin, a Democratic state representative, received roughly 600 fewer votes than Kurrus. In the November vote, Sabin carried precincts in and around the Heights and downtown, as well as the city's Hillcrest neighborhood.

In Tuesday's runoff, voters who initially cast ballots for Sabin were split. Scott won in downtown and some midtown precincts that previously favored Sabin. That included Sabin's home precinct in the Capitol View/Stifft Station neighborhood. The 42-year-old legislator did not endorse a candidate in the runoff election.

Kurrus, 64, won some west Little Rock and Hillcrest precincts that previously supported Sabin, though Scott received enough votes across the board to make for close contests in some areas.

When reached by phone Wednesday, Kurrus said he was moving on and focusing on his own career opportunities. He did not rule out running for another political office in the future, but said it was unlikely.

"I didn't make this race because I wanted a political future. I made it because I wanted to serve," he said. "The public decided that they didn't need that, and I respect their decision."

Scott won in areas that generally have younger voters, said Jay Barth, a political science professor at Hendrix College in Conway. At 35, Scott will be Little Rock's youngest mayor since 1979, according to information provided by Scott Carter, the city's special projects administrator.

While the results of the runoff show divisions by geographical areas and racial makeup, Barth said the divide was not as stark as in other elections. Voters embracing the notion of historical change -- giving the city its first elected black mayor -- likely contributed to Scott's win, he said.

Little Rock has had two black mayors previously, both were elected as city directors and later were chosen by fellow board members to hold the position. The city of nearly 200,000 people is about 42 percent black.

The historic nature of the race drew national attention, with Scott getting an Election Day endorsement from U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., something Scott said completely surprised him.

Pamela Bingham, president of the Upper Baseline Windamere Neighborhood Association in southwest Little Rock, said Scott's win will inspire people growing up in the city's minority communities.

"It means a lot," Bingham said. "They see anything is possible if they work hard to set their mind to it."

She added that Scott could help bridge a gap between the city's leadership and its younger residents. Scott is 15 years younger than the youngest member currently on the city Board of Directors over which he will preside.

To some people in southwest Little Rock, Scott's win means that someone with personal knowledge of the unique challenges in that area will occupy the city's top political office.

[2018 ELECTION: Full Democrat-Gazette coverage of Arkansas races]

"I think it'll give him a better understanding of what we work on all the time," said Pamela Adcock, president of the grass-roots group Southwest Little Rock United for Progress. "It's not foreign to him. We don't have to start from scratch with teaching and making a new person understand the issues we face out here."

Donna Massey, state president of Arkansas Community Organizations, said it has at times been difficult to get city leaders to pay attention to issues that residents south of Interstate 630 face.

"It's just been like we just don't exist," Massey said.

Arkansas Community Organizations works to support renters' rights, health care and justice for low-income people. Massey said the group interviewed both candidates in the runoff before endorsing Scott and that she hopes he will address the issues.

Scott said he is focused on unification and creating a "new city."

"I didn't run to become the black mayor of Little Rock -- I ran to become the mayor," Scott said. "I know it's a huge responsibility to help lead this city."

Scott said he plans to announce his transition team Monday.

A Section on 12/06/2018

CORRECTION: Frank Scott Jr. will be Little Rock's youngest mayor since 1979. Earlier versions of this story listed an incorrect year for the last time a younger mayor than Scott held the office.

Print Headline: Scott’s victory in Little Rock mayor's race raises hopes in areas some call forgotten


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Archived Comments

  • RBear
    December 6, 2018 at 6:22 a.m.

    Well, it appears Scott has partially walked back on one of his campaign promises regarding the City Manager position. He plans to keep Bruce Moore and repurpose him as a chief operating officer that will answer to Scott. Potato, potato. The position will still remain and it creates even more challenges as the board will be responsible with setting policy, but Scott can dictate how that policy is implemented. Quite honestly, I think Little Rock has mucked with the forms of government to the point they don't even understand how a functional city government should work.
    The best approach would be to take a look at effective city government and create a model based on those examples, THEN introduce a ballot proposal everyone can get behind. As it stands now, Scott is assuming what the people want which may not be factual. I do agree with getting rid of the at-large directors and looking at the ward structure. But this latest move by Scott to "repurpose" Moore is just shuffling the deck chairs with no real strategy in mind.
    Maybe it's worthwhile to take screen shots of Scott's website and see how many of his campaign promises he holds true to. If Little Rock ever expects to become a great city, it must start with integrity at the top and holding true to promises is a part of building that trust through integrity.

  • NoUserName
    December 6, 2018 at 6:46 a.m.

    "He plans to keep Bruce Moore and repurpose him as a chief operating officer that will answer to Scott."
    The mayor can hire/fire the CM which already puts the CM in a position to answer to the mayor. I'd say that's even less than shuffling deck chairs. This isn't at all a good start.

  • SWAL
    December 6, 2018 at 9:25 a.m.

    Buyer's remorse..? Already..?

  • MM03
    December 6, 2018 at 9:27 a.m.

    "The 35-year-old banker and associate pastor ran on a platform of unifying what many see as a divided city."

    Who is this "many" the reporter refers to? Fact check? "Divided" by what?

    Please just report, do not provide your opinion. Citizens, and people in general, think differently and have different beliefs and values but that does not mean it divides a city.

    Regarding race, if LR were that divided based on race, a black person in a city that has more whites than blacks would never be elected mayor here. If anything, the case could be made that blacks here voted on skin color based on the results by precinct that the paper printed yesterday. Most of the precincts in predominately black neighborhoods were well over 90% in favor of Scott.

    As a white person, I'm fine with Scott. I voted for Kurrus for one reason...Scott is too young and inexperienced to be mayor. That may should silly to some as a basis for picking a candidate but probably no more silly than many other reasons that voters based their vote on.

    If you want a good example of a city divided, check out Memphis. LR is nothing like Memphis...not even close, contrary to the thinking of some Little Rockians.

    Here's to Mayor Scott giving max effort to the job and working to make all citizens of Little Rock happy.

  • Foghorn
    December 6, 2018 at 9:39 a.m.

    I didn’t vote for Scott but I’m going to give him his ‘first 100 days’ before rendering a verdict. Like all politicians, I’m sure he made promises he either knew or will rapidly realize he cannot keep. Lots of non-uniform heads will have to be cut in order to add all the cops he wants, and so on. Let’s not micromanage. He’ll either swim or sink.

  • Razrbak
    December 6, 2018 at 10:04 a.m.

    The fact that Scott did not hold his victory celebration south of I-630 is telling. Nothing has or will change. He is a shill for the status quo.

  • Razrbak
    December 6, 2018 at 10:16 a.m.

    The mayor in Little Rock cannot hire or fire any city employee. The City Manager and City Attorney can only be hired and fired by the board. The mayor can call meeting, make proclamations,and cut ribbons at openings. The mayor can only vote at board meeting in the event of a tie. It's a figurehead position.

  • MM03
    December 6, 2018 at 11:43 a.m.

    For now, the mayor is a figurehead position. But nice position where you do not have much authority or real influence yet make $160K a year + benefits. Good gig if you can get it.

  • drs01
    December 6, 2018 at 12:21 p.m.

    I see Scott as a transitional mayor. The next 4 years, or sooner, will determine just what form of government we need to maximize the city's potential. Scott can shape that decision, or he can fall into the political trap of rewarding his campaign supporters, taking care of some home boys (and girls), make decisions influenced by race, listening to the chamber of commerce, downtown partnership, and the developer community.
    Will we get real change or status quo? All we can do for now is watch, wait and then decide.

  • mozarky2
    December 6, 2018 at 12:36 p.m.

    MMO3, nice observation on LR's "divisions".
    What are blacks' views toward whites? Blacks aren't killing whites in large numbers.
    What are whites'views toward blacks? Whites aren't killing blacks in even small numbers.
    What are bbn kacks'