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The Republican Party of Arkansas refiled a lawsuit late Thursday seeking to disqualify Democrat Jimmie Wilson from an upcoming state House election, hours after the Arkansas Supreme Court gave the party another shot to challenge Wilson's eligibility.

In the lawsuit, attorneys for the GOP allege that Wilson's decades-old misdemeanor convictions for illegal use of federal farm loans and selling mortgaged crops make him ineligible for office under an amendment to the state's constitution barring people who have been convicted of crimes involving "deceit, fraud or false statement."

"Mr. Wilson's candidacy raises the possibility that the election process in House District 12 will be corrupted by the possible election of an individual who is not qualified to sit as a Representative in the Arkansas General Assembly," the lawsuit states.

Wilson did not respond to requests for comment by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette on Friday.

Previously, however, Wilson has argued that a pardon he received from then-President Bill Clinton in 2001 removed any barriers to his ability to hold office.

Wilson has also disputed that the 2016 amendment cited by his opponents can be retroactively applied to his convictions, which occurred in 1991. Wilson went on to serve several terms in the state House of Representatives during the 1990s.

An earlier lawsuit challenging Wilson's eligibility was dismissed in Pulaski County Circuit Court in August over procedural errors. The Supreme Court upheld that decision Thursday, but allowed opponents to refile another lawsuit.

Chris Burks, a former attorney for the Democratic Party of Arkansas who has worked on similar challenges to a candidate's eligibility, said the Supreme Court's ruling Thursday essentially started the clock for Republicans seeking to disqualify Wilson. Burks is not involved in the current lawsuit.

"In a pre-election eligibility challenge, the candidate has to be declared ineligible before the election is certified" within 15 days of the election, Burks said. "If they don't have an order after that point, it is a matter for the House of Representatives to decide."

Wilson's opponent in the Nov. 3 general election, Republican David Tollett, is named as a plaintiff in the Republican Party's lawsuit. Tollett could not be reached Friday for comment.

A spokesman for the Republican Party said the party did not have further comment on the lawsuit. George Ritter, one of the party's attorneys, said he anticipated a hearing would be set in the case next week.

"Obviously, we've got to move quickly and get the parties served," Ritter said.

The case was assigned to Pulaski County Circuit Judge Mackie Pierce.

Both candidates are running in House District 12, a traditionally Democratic district centered around Helena-West Helena. The seat was left vacant earlier this year when state Rep. Chris Richey, D-Helena-West Helena, stepped down to take a job in another area of the state.


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