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Fair-housing chief quits to run for attorney general

Republican nomination focus of Jones by Michael R. Wickline | February 24, 2021 at 7:04 a.m.
Leon Jones Jr. is shown in this photo.

Arkansas Fair Housing Commission Executive Director Leon Jones Jr. has tendered his resignation, effective Monday to focus on vying for the Republican nomination for attorney general in 2022.

Jones said in a letter dated Monday to Gov. Asa Hutchinson, "I am now at a point when I have to make a very difficult decision for me and my family.

"After prayer, conversations with my wife and a determined belief in myself, I have come to the conclusion, now is the time for me to depart your administration and pursue my dreams," Jones wrote in his letter to the Republican governor.

Jones has served as the executive director of the Arkansas Fair Housing Commission since July 2019.

He was director of the state Department of Labor from January 2015 through June 30, 2019, before the department became part of the state Department of Labor and Licensing.

Jones said Tuesday in an interview that he plans to formally announce as a candidate for attorney general during the first week of April.

The 2022 Republican primary for attorney general has one candidate so far.

More than two weeks ago, Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin announced his departure from the 2022 governor's race to run for the GOP nomination for attorney general.

Former U.S. Attorney General Cody Hiland said Tuesday that he still is seriously considering running for the Republican nomination for attorney general.

No Democrats have announced for the position, which has been held since 2015 by Republican Leslie Rutledge. Rutledge is vying for her party's nomination for governor with Sarah Huckabee Sanders, a former press secretary for then-President Donald Trump. Sanders also is the daughter of former GOP Gov. Mike Huckabee.

Jones recalled in his letter to Hutchinson that he wanted to help Hutchinson become the state's 46th governor when they met in February 2013 and they worked together to produce that result.

He thanked Hutchinson for appointing him to be the first Black director of the state Department of Labor.

"You believed in me and trusted I could rise to the challenge. You stuck by me when I made a very public mistake and trusted me to lead another agency in your administration," Jones wrote in his letter to the governor.

In December 2016, Arkansas Legislative Audit issued a critical report about Jones' out-of-state travel expenses and the recording of his sick and annual leave, leading Sen. Terry Rice, R-Waldron, to call for Jones' resignation.

Hutchinson said Tuesday that he is grateful for Jones' six years of service as labor director and fair housing executive director.

"I appreciate his dedicated leadership and friendship, and wish him well as he pursues other opportunities," the governor said in a written statement.

Hutchinson's spokeswoman, Katie Beck, said Tuesday that Department of Inspector General Secretary Elizabeth Smith will serve as the interim executive director for the Fair Housing Commission. The commission is part of the Department of Inspector General.

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