State treasurer candidate says bankruptcies make him a better candidate

2 bankruptcies filed by Lowery

FILE - Arkansas state Rep. Mark Lowery, R-Maumelle

Arkansas state treasurer candidate Mark Lowery has filed for personal bankruptcy twice, in 1998 and in 2017, according to federal court records.

Lowery is a Republican state representative from Maumelle who announced his bid for treasurer in January after several months of campaigning for secretary of state.

He filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in May 1998, which under federal law provides for the sale of a debtor's nonexempt property and the distribution of the proceeds to creditors, also known as liquidation. The case was closed later the same year, documents show.

In 2017, he filed Chapter 13 bankruptcy, which provides for adjustment of debts of an individual with regular income and allows for the individual to keep property and pay debts over time, and is still in the process of paying about $68,000 worth of debts, according to the most recent filings.

Lowery's primary opponent, state Sen. Mat Pitsch, R-Fort Smith, said Lowery's financial history doesn't bode well for his ability to do the job of the state's banker. The state treasurer is responsible for an investment portfolio of more than $5 billion, according to the current officeholder's website.

"I understand it happening once, but if it happens repeatedly that shows what your financial skills are," Pitsch said by phone Friday. "You couldn't have those credentials and still be a bank president."

Lowery said in an interview Thursday that the state treasurer's office has financial advisers and investment personnel, and that he wouldn't have a problem working with a strong staff. He added that his own setbacks allow him to empathize with constituents.

"Do I believe all the personal financial issues I have make me a better candidate? Yes. Because when they tell me, when Arkansans tell me they're having difficulty, I understand it. And I understand that sometimes those things happen through no direct fault of their own," he said.

Local media outlets KATV and the Arkansas Times were the first to report on the 2017 filing earlier this year.

When asked by KATV reporter Marine Glisovic in February how many times he had filed for bankruptcy, Lowery responded he had filed once, according to her report. When asked about that answer by the Democrat-Gazette last week, he said he had forgotten about the 1998 filing.

Lowery said his only debt in that case was on a car, which he ended up turning back to the bank. He said his income for the past two years had been managing a golf course property at the North Little Rock Veterans Affairs Hospital at Fort Roots and had expected to have the opportunity for a long-term lease that was instead awarded to the city of North Little Rock.

Lowery said it took him a few months to secure employment that would have put him in a better position to keep the car.

Regarding the February 2017 filing, Lowery said he had entered into a short-term loan modification agreement with the company Nationstar Mortgage to get a lower rate.

Court records show Lowery sued Nationstar in February 2017, before his home was set to be auctioned at a foreclosure sale, for not providing him with notice that he did not meet the criteria for loan modification or forbearance assistance.

In the suit, Lowery said he had made payments on the mortgage but the company began rejecting them in fall 2016. An attorney for Nationstar denied the allegations in Lowery's complaint, according to court documents. Lowery's attorney ultimately moved for the case to be dismissed. Lowery said Thursday he was unable to get a hearing before a judge and said he was in danger of losing his home.

"Running out of time, the only recourse I had was to file bankruptcy," he said.

He also referenced a class-action lawsuit against Nationstar alleging the company violated consumer protection laws, which resulted in a settlement in 2020. Lowery was not a party in that lawsuit.

Lowery is under a 60-month plan to pay a total of $67,556, according to court documents from 2019.

The 2017 filing includes nearly $8,000 worth of credit card debt across various cards, among other charges.

"It's not out of the ordinary to have credit card debt, but again, all of that is under reorganization and everyone's getting paid," he said.

Lowery also was sued by the state Department of Finance and Administration over about $1,300 in unpaid individual income taxes in 2016 and 2017. He said that case arose due to having incomplete information on his mortgage deduction. The case was resolved in 2020, records show.

The Republican primary is scheduled for May 24. The winner will face Democrat Pam Whitaker of Little Rock in the Nov. 8 general election. Incumbent state Treasurer Dennis Milligan is term-limited and is running for state auditor.