One week away from early voting

County residents can begin casting ballots for March 1 election Feb. 16

By Ralph Hardin ralphhardin@gmail.com

Crittenden County voters will have a number of choices on the ballot in the March 1 party primary and judicial elections, and voters can begin making their selections a week from today when early voting begins. And while the primary is sure to be hotly contested in some races, several key races have already been decided, with no challengers filing to run against a number of elected officials in the county. County Judge Woody Wheeless has already earned another term. With no opposition, Wheeless is guaranteed re-election. The county’s top law enforcement official, Sheriff Mike Allen is also unopposed in his re-election bid. County Assessor Kim Hollowell, County Clerk Paula Brown, County Treasurer Charlie Suiter Jr., and County Tax Collector Ellen Foote all filed for re-election and none will face opposition in the primary. And Judge Fred Thorne will be back on the bench for another term as District Judge. No one filed to run against his honor for that seat. Two other county races, however, will be contested. County Coroner Bill Wolfe will be challenged by Emily Burnett. Also, County Circuit Clerk Terry Hawkins will face challenger Lisa Turner for that position. None of the local constables will face challengers. Gary Kelley (Jasper), Steve Johnson (Jackson), Eddie West (Mississippi), Michael Bass (Proctor), Billy Thomen (Lucas), and Rodney Davis (Black Oak) are unopposed. No candidate filed for the Tyronza or Fogleman township constable positions. About half of the Crittenden County Quorum Court Justice of the Peace seats will be contested in the primary. Republican Albert Marconi, Independent Joe Marotti, and Democrats Hubert Bass, Stacy Allen, Lisa O’Neal, Ronnie Sturch, and Claude “Shorty” Steele are unopposed in their races. However, Vickie Robertson will face a challenge from Deborah Farrow in the Democratic Primary for the JP District 1 seat. Kenneth Cross is assured the Democratic nomination for the JP District 9 seat, but will face Independent Steven Jefferson next November. In JP District 10, James Fraley will face Dorothy Cooper in the primary. In JP District 5, Tyrone McWright will be challenged by Shabaka Afrika. In JP District 13, Lorenzo Parker will be challenged by Danny Barlow. And in JP District 7, a three-way race will be contested between John Moore, Ronald Marconi and Kyle Watkins. County voters will also cast votes in the presidential primary on March 1. While former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) are the only candidates still running a national campaign, other Democratic candidates for the U.S. Presidency who will be on the ballot in Arkansas for the primary include John Wolfe, Roque “Rocky” De La Fuente, James Valentine, and Martin J. O’Malley. The field of Republicans still includes a half-dozen or more viable candidates. The full slate who will be on the ballot in Arkansas for the primary includes: Rand Paul, Bobby Jindal, Lindsey Graham, Rick Santorum, Carly Fiorina, Chris Christie, Ted Cruz, Donald J. Trump, Marco Rubio, John R. Kasich, Dr. Ben Carson, Mike Huckabee, and John “Jeb” Bush. Republican U.S. Congressman Rick Crawford has filed for re-election. Libertarian Mark West has also filed to run for that seat. No Democratic candidate filed. Republican U.S. Senator John Boozman will be challenged in the primary by Curtis Coleman. Conner Eldridge has filed to run unopposed as the Democratic candidate. Libertarian Frank Gilbert has also filed for candidacy in that race. Jason Tate has filed as well as a non-partisan Write-In candidate. State Representative Milton Nicks Jr. (State Representative District 50) and State Representative Deborah Ferguson (State Representative District 51) have both filed for re-election and are both unopposed. Several areas of the county will be asked to choose a new Circuit Judge to replace the outgoing Judge Victor Hill. The two candidates for the Circuit Judge, District 02, Division 06, Subdistrict 2.1 seat are attorneys Tonya Alexander of Marion and Curtis Walker Jr. of Blytheville. In the Arkansas Supreme Court, the contest for the position of Chief Justice (Position 1) resulted from former Chief Justice Jim Hannah’s announcement earlier this year that he would retire early. Position 5 is open because Justice Paul Danielson decided not to seek re-election for that position. The candidates for the two contested races on the Arkansas Supreme Court are: Chief Justice Position 1 — State Supreme Court Justice Courtney Goodson and Judge Dan Kemp. Associate Justice Position 5 — Judge Shawn A. Womack and Clark W. Mason. In the Court of Appeals, there are two races that are uncontested: Judge Rita W. Gruber will remain the Associate Justice for District 6, Position 1; and Judge Waymond Brown will keep his seat as District 7 Associate Judge. The two contested races in the Court of Appeals are for District 2, Position 2 (currently occupied by Judge Cliff Hoofman, who was appointed to replace Justice Rhonda Wood when she was elected to the Arkansas Supreme Court) and District 5 (currently occupied by Mike Kinard, who was appointed to replace Justice Robin Wynne after Wynne was elected to the Arkansas Supreme Court). Voters will also be asked to vote on a re-direct of the one-cent hospital tax and whether or not to approve the move to use those funds to support the new deal with Baptist Memorial Hospital to build a county hospital. Voters will need to approve the measure to give the county permission to move that funding toward the Baptist agreement and away from the old Ameris Health Systems agreement that was never implemented.

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