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OPINION | JOHN BRUMMETT: Much drama over a closet

by John Brummett | May 10, 2022 at 4:20 a.m.

We fired arrows in this space Sunday without giving a thought to the Republican primary to determine which of six candidates will accomplish the unthinkable and make Sarah Huckabee Sanders seem preferable, or at least not the absolute worst.

The lieutenant governor gets $46,704, which is plenty to sit and wait to become governor in the event of a vacancy, such as Sanders becoming President Donald Trump's White House chief of staff in 2025. These six candidates offer no relief should that happen.

Another element of the job description is to preside formally over the state Senate, but most lieutenant governors in the modern era have delegated that monotonous day-to-day responsibility, usually because they had real outside jobs or needed to wash their hair.

Lieutenant governors routinely hire a couple or three people to sit in a converted closet at the foot of the stairs on the second floor of the Capitol and answer calls from people not knowing any better than to ask the lieutenant governor.

Yet there the race was, highlighted on the front page of the same Sunday edition in which I'd forgotten it.

Capitol-beat veteran Michael Wickline deserves an arrow-up for talking to all six of the candidates, going back and forth among them to get all charges levied and pooh-poohed, enduring Jason Rapert's sanctimony and Leslie Rutledge's scoffing, then putting it all in a readable article.

Rutledge seeks to become lieutenant governor because of her vision, which is of herself continuing to hold a state political office--any state political office.

Rutledge is term-limited as attorney general, stands no chance against Sanders for governor, and needs only a place to hang out until governor opens up.

Rutledge hasn't been right about much, but she nailed it when she said months ago, while an announced gubernatorial candidate falsely professing no fear of Sanders, that lieutenant governor would be beneath her. She said a part-time job with two employees would bore her after occupying the best personal office in the relevant, expansive attorney general's operation.

As attorney general, Rutledge stayed interested by signing Arkansas onto every Republican attorney general lawsuit filed elsewhere in the country in devotion to Trump. And she stayed engaged by spending office money accumulated from case settlements to promote herself on television. We endured those months of local news telecasts being brought to us by the attorney general spending our money.

All of that leads me to write now what I submit is the most remarkable sentence I have ever found it my predicament to write: State Sen. Jason Rapert, a church-as-state grandstander who is the self-righteous heroic martyr in every sentence he ever spoke, is absolutely right.

In the article Sunday, Rapert described himself as the noble victim of Rutledge's lie when she called him some time back and assured him she would not run for lieutenant governor.

She doesn't deny assuring Rapert of that. She was quoted in the article on Sunday as saying it was "silly" to try to hold such a thing as her word against her now.

Her position is that she wasn't running for lieutenant governor when she said she wasn't and that what she said then had no bearing on changed circumstances by which she in fact decided to run for lieutenant governor some period of time after she told Rapert she wouldn't. You see.

Somebody check Rutledge when she takes the oath of office for lieutenant governor to see if her fingers are crossed.

Rapert has the advantage of never having been inconvenienced by circumstances causing him to speak truth about the insignificance of the office he seeks. He has consistently pretended that lieutenant governor matters.

Rapert also said that Rutledge sent some of her attorney general's minions to try to talk the House Republican caucus out of passing an Arkansas version of the Texas-style anti-abortion law.

Rutledge said that, too, was "silly" because the attorney general can't tell legislators what to do. Thus she denied an accusation not made. Rapert accuses her not of dictating anything, but of having underlings counsel against such a law, probably on account of its being legally suspect while the real abortion fight was simpler, which is now seemingly borne out. The attorney general's advice was sound, if Rutledge's defense is not.

There are four other candidates in the GOP field. One of them, Washington County Judge Joseph Wood, is a man of nice resume reported in the article to be alone in the field in saying nothing critical about any of the others because doing that sort of thing does not commend oneself. That sounds decent if ironic for a man who has described Trump as one of our greatest presidents.

Still, I'll say this: If you have spent time as chief executive of county government in the exploding Fayetteville-Springdale metropolis, then you've been in the vicinity of real public responsibility and can probably cope with the wrong numbers coming into the second-floor Capitol closet.


John Brummett, whose column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, is a member of the Arkansas Writers' Hall of Fame. Email him at jbrummett@arkansasonline.com. Read his @johnbrummett Twitter feed.



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