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Edwards wins House seat in recount

The Pulaski County Election Commission just finished their recount for the House District 38 race, and Democrat John Edwards has been declared the winner over Republican Kelly Eichler. The difference was 77 votes. Eichler asked for the recount after unofficial results on Election Day had her trailing by 74 votes.

Election Commission Chairman Kent Walker said it took about seven hours to count the ballots, which included provisional ballots and military overseas ballots not originally counted.

When the Legislature goes into session in January, the House will include 71 Democrats, 28 Republicans and one Green Party member.

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Pryor: Obama could have won state

Barack Obama could have won Arkansas if he had campaigned here, according to U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark.

“I think if Obama had come here and worked here and allocated some resources to Arkansas, we could have been like North Carolina or Missouri or some of these other states who were very close, and we could have won the thing. … They made the right decision nationally, but I do wish the Obama campaign had spent some more time here,” Pryor told reporters.

As of today, provisional ballots are still being counted in Missouri and no winner has been declared.

Pryor, who campaigned in the state on Obama’s behalf, said Arkansas’ election results — 58.6 percent for McCain, 39 percent for Obama — also may have been affected by former first lady Hillary Clinton’s defeat in the national Democratic primary and “probably some other factors.”

Obama’s most recent appearance in Arkansas was in October 2006 at a rally for Mike Beebe and other Democratic candidates.

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Lottery on ice?

Two groups opposed to a state-run lottery want legislators to ignore the lottery-authorizing amendment voters approved on Election Day.

United Methodists Against Gambling announced today it will ask legislators to forego writing rules for creating and operating a state lottery next year. Instead, the group wants lawmakers to refer to the 2010 general election a proposed constitutional amendment to restrict the definition of state lotteries to exclude all games of chance except the sale of lottery tickets.

Jerry Cox of the Family Council says his group supports the idea of a constitutional amendment in 2010 that either defines lotteries in the state constitution or bans casinos.

One lawmaker whose committee would help write rules for running a state lottery says it would be “insulting to the people of Arkansas” for the Legislature to ignore the will of the electorate.

Senate State Agencies chairman Steve Faris, D-Malvern, says he’s willing to discuss any and all ideas, but he says asking the Legislature to reject what voters overwhelmingly approved is not an option.

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Beebe votes no on lottery

A state lottery is not the ticket for Arkansas, according to Gov. Mike Beebe.

Beebe, who has said for more than a year he was undecided on the issue, voted today against a proposed constitutional amendment to create a state-run lottery to fund college scholarships.

Beebe spokesman Matt DeCample said the governor weighed the advantages of a lottery, including the potential to offer more scholarships and to keep money in the state that Arkansans are now spending on other states’ lotteries, against the disadvantage of a potential negative economic impact “on some people in our state who can least afford it.”

Concerns about the impact on the poor “weighed a little heavier in the end, especially with the economic picture like it is,” DeCample said.

Beebe cast his ballot at a polling site in his hometown of Searcy after a 40-minute wait.

Meanwhile, Lt. Gov. Bill Halter, who proposed the lottery amendment, cast his ballot today at a North Little Rock polling place. On the way in Halter told reporters he was confident voters would approve the measure.

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Beebe: Lottery position changes daily

Gov. Mike Beebe says his position on a proposed state-run lottery changes depending on the day of the week.

“This is one of those deals where it depends on what day of the week I wake up,” Beebe said today on his monthly call-in radio program on the Arkansas Radio Network. “One day I decide I’m going to vote for it and the next day I wake up and decide I’m not going to vote for it.”

Proposed Constitutional Amendment 3 would authorize the Legislature to create a lottery to fund college scholarships. Lt. Gov. Bill Halter, who proposed the amendment, has said the lottery could raise $100 million a year.

Beebe said he would love to have the money for college scholarships, and he understands that many Arkansans are already crossing state lines to buy lottery tickets. He said he also understands the argument of some lottery opponents that gambling can hurt families.

“I honestly don’t know how I’m going to vote and won’t know until I get in that booth,” he said.

Beebe said he would reveal afterward how he voted on the ballot question.

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Democratic rallies set

Bill Clinton’s sweep through his native Arkansas tomorrow and Saturday on behalf Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama and the rest of the party’s election ticket is set.

The former president, along with Gov. Mike Beebe and former Arkansas Govs. and U.S. Sens. Dale Bumpers and David Pryor, will headline a get-out-the-vote rally at 5 p.m. Friday at the corner of Fourth and Main streets in North Little Rock.

The quartet will follow Saturday with an 11:30 a.m. rally in downtown Pine Bluff and a 1 p.m. appearance in Jonesboro. They’ll be joined at various stops by Democratic Senators Mark Pryor and Blanche Lincoln, along with Democratic Congressmen Marion Berry, Vic Snyder and Mike Ross.

Obama has not visited Arkansas since an October 2006 appearance in support of Beebe and other state Democrats. Republican John McCain has visited the state twice since becoming the GOP presidential nominee. Former Arkansas and U.S. first lady Hillary Clinton headlined a rally for Obama in Little Rock two weeks ago.

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Court to act quickly on Dobbins

Former state Rep. Dwayne Dobbins will get quick action from the state’s highest court, one way or the other.

The Arkansas Supreme Court said today it will give expedited consideration to Dobbins’ effort to get his name on the Nov. 4 general election ballot in North Little Rock.

In a per curiam order, the court set a deadline of noon Thursday for the parties to file briefs and said it would not accept reply briefs.

Dobbins filed a lawsuit on Oct. 10 challenging the state Democratic Party’s refusal to certify him as a candidate for his former House seat.

The party adopted a rule in July prohibiting ballot certification of any Democratic candidate who has resigned from elective office as part of a plea deal to avoid felony prosecution.

Dobbins resigned from his House seat and pleaded guilty to misdemeanor harassment in a 2005 plea deal after he was charged initially with felony sexual assault. Prosecutors said he improperly touched a 17-year-old girl at his home.

A Pulaski County circuit judge dismissed Dobbins’ lawsuit Friday, saying it was not filed in a timely manner. On Monday Dobbins filed an appeal with the state’s highest court and asked for expedited consideration.

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Dobbins lawsuit dismissed UPDATE

A lawyer for former state Rep. Dwayne Dobbins said this afternoon he will appeal a circuit judge’s dismissal of Dobbins’ lawsuit challenging a Democratic Party rule that barred Dobbins from the November general election ballot.

Pulaski County Circuit Judge Chris Piazza dismissed Dobbins’ lawsuit this morning, ruling that the lawsuit was not filed in a timely manner.

Dobbins would not say immediately after the hearing if he planned to appeal, but his attorney, Jimmy Morris Jr., said later he would file an appeal with the Arkansas Supreme Court on Monday, the same day early voting begins for the Nov. 4 general election.

“Of course I would ask for them to have a hearing scheduled as quickly as possible,” Morris said.

Dobbins filed his challenge on Oct. 10, just 10 days before the start of early voting.

“Now we’re on the cusp of deciding a presidential election, and it’s late to be involved in this issue,” Piazza said in making his ruling today. 

Dobbins claimed state Democratic Party violated his due process rights when it refused to certify him for the general election ballot in his former North Little Rock House district after Dobbins did not draw opposition for the May Democratic primary. 

The party approved a rule in July denying certification as a Democratic candidate to anyone who resigned from public office as part of a plea deal to avoid felony prosecution.

Dobbins was serving as a state representative in 2005 when he was charged with felony sexual assault. Prosecutors said he improperly touched a 17-year-old girl at his home.
Dobbins pleaded guilty to misdemeanor harassment and resigned from his House seat in a plea bargain with prosecutor. His wife, Sharon Dobbins, now holds the seat and was expected to run for re-election this year, but on the last day of the filing period her husband filed to run instead.

Pulaski County Attorney Karla Burnett argued during today’s hearing that Dobbins was required to file his challenge within 20 days of being notified on July 21 that he would not be certified as the Democratic Party nominee.

The county could not possibly reprint 200,000 ballots in time for the election, she said, noting that absentee ballots have already been mailed and early voting starts Monday.
Morris argued that the deadline did not apply because the Democratic Party acted illegally and that a ruling in his client’s favor would affect only the ballots in House District 39.

“If that’s 200,000 ballots, gosh, that’s a lot of people in District 39,” Morris said.

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