One of the two candidates in today’s runoff election to fill a vacancy in a Little Rock-area state House district has yet to file a single campaign-finance report for his three-month campaign.
Today is the final day to vote in the Democratic primary runoff for House District 36.
The runoff is between Denise Ennett and Darrell Stephens, the two contestants who received the most votes in the five-candidate primary on Aug. 6.
The winner will succeed former state Rep. Charles Blake, D-Little Rock, the former House minority leader who resigned in May to become Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott Jr.’s chief of staff.
No Republicans filed to run in the special election, meaning the winner of the primary will serve the remainder of Blake’s term.
Stephens, the candidate who is missing reports, said Friday that he was having ongoing problems with the secretary of state’s office’s online filing system. His latest report, covering the runoff period, was due last Tuesday. Stephens also failed to file reports covering the months of June and July.
During a phone call with the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette on Friday, Stephens offered to provide copies of his reports directly to the paper but did not.
“Transparency means everything,” Ennett said Saturday. “If you cannot do to the simple things like fill out your campaign finance report, how do you expect to be an effective legislator?”
Ennett filed her final pre-election report on time last Tuesday. She reported raising $4,840 since the Aug. 6 primary election while spending $11,585. Her campaign ended the period with $8,797 cash on hand.
Several of the candidates reported problems with filing their campaign-finance reports ahead of the August primary, and all five of them were late in filing their initial June report.
Ennett and another candidate, Roderick Talley, said they were unable to download the form from the secretary of state’s online filing system until after the deadline. The secretary of state’s office attributed the issue to candidates waiting until the day of the deadline to register for the system.
Stephens, however, was the only candidate not to file any reports ahead of the first primary. He explained to this newspaper in July that his campaign manager was “working on” getting a report done.
On Friday, Stephens said he was not sure how much money his campaign had raised. He had made a similar statement previously.
Stephens has described his campaign as an extension of his unsuccessful primary bid against Blake in the 2018 election.
In the Aug. 6 primary, Stephens came in second behind Ennett, a board member of Little Rock’s Mosaic Templars Cultural Center. Out of 1,377 votes cast, Ennett received 446 and Stephens received 431, according to the official results of the Pulaski County Election Commission.
When a candidate fails to file a campaign-finance report or is late doing so, the Arkansas Ethics Commission decides whether to write a letter of caution, warning, or reprimand and/or levy a fine from $50 to $3,500 for each violation.
House District 36 covers the eastern part of Little Rock and the southeastern part of Pulaski County.