Little Rock board hopeful sets on path to raise funds

A contender for a Little Rock Board of Directors seat became the first to announce Friday that he will follow the lead of mayoral challengers and raise funds through an exploratory committee ahead of the city-set timeline.

A city ordinance instructs candidates to wait until June 1 before a November election to begin accepting campaign donations.

Warwick Sabin and Frank Scott Jr., who are considering bids for Little Rock mayor, have gotten around that rule by forming exploratory committees, which are allowed under state law and can begin raising money two years out from an election. That money will be transferred to the candidate once the candidate formally files to run for office.

The city sued over the issue, and a judge dismissed the lawsuit this week, ruling that neither Sabin nor Scott were candidates, and did not have to follow the city's ordinance.

Russ Racop, who will run for the Ward 6 seat on the city board, said that opened the door for him to begin raising funds, as well. He formed the Racop for Little Rock Board Exploratory Committee on Friday.

Ward 6 incumbent Doris Wright cannot begin raising money until June 1 under the city ordinance. She didn't return a request for comment Friday.

Racop said he will not accept money from political action committees or from real estate developers.

"I expect the incumbent to get support from real estate developers and chamber-affiliated PACs as she has in the past. She has not taken up my challenge to announce that she will not take contributions from those groups as I have," Racop said.

"I believe that my financial support will come from small donations from ordinary citizens that want a positive change in city leadership. They want leaders that are not in the pockets of the chamber or those that support issues that harm our city and its residents," he said.

Racop has often taken issue with the city's economic-development payments to the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce, which is not a public entity.

Dean Kumpuris, city director at-large, whose seat is not up for election this year, predicted that board challengers will soon start fundraising after the judge's ruling.

At this week's city board meeting, Kumpuris suggested that the board temporarily suspend the ordinance that sets the June-through-November fundraising time frame so incumbents would have an even playing field with their challengers.

The city board passed the ordinance in the 1990s as a "good government" measure that at the time was touted by residents and the business community.

The time restriction was put in place to remove any appearance of impropriety since city directors often accept money from developers and business leaders who appear before them with requests that the board votes on. The board is in session year-round, meeting weekly.

The board seats for Wards 1, 2, 3, 5, 6 and 7, as well as the mayor position, are up for election this year. The Ward 4 seat and three at-large seats will be up for election in the next cycle.

Board members are paid $18,500 yearly and serve four-year terms.

Metro on 03/03/2018

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