Candidates speak: 23 state case at crowded Republican forum

Thursday, April 21, 2022

The candidates alone accounted for quite a crowd at Saturday’s Republican Candidates Forum at the Holiday Island Country Club, but they were joined by a room full of Carroll County residents eager to learn more about those on the ballot for next month’s preferential primary.

A total of 23 candidates — running for positions ranging from state senator to justice of the peace — were given three minutes apiece to discuss their qualifications and their plans if elected. The format for the event sponsored by the Carroll County Republican Committee then allowed one minute for candidates to answer questions submitted in writing by the audience.

STATE SENATE

The five Republican candidates for the District 28 State Senate seat were the first to speak. State Sen. Bob Ballinger was followed by Ted Walker, state Rep. Keith Slape, Bob Largent and Bryan King.

Ballinger pointed to his voting record.

“What I can say that I’ve demonstrated is I’m a consistent conservative,” he said.

Walker cited his military service and acknowledged his lack of experience.

“I don’t have the experience that Mr. Ballinger’s got,” he said. “That’s a fact. What I’ve got is integrity, to the bone. I’ve proven myself. What I’ve got is loyalty to the people.”

Slape, a former longtime Newton County sheriff, called for tax cuts and smaller government. He also called for reform in the state’s criminal justice system.

“We’ve got to totally revamp it,” he said.

Largent, president and chief executive officer of the Harrison Chamber of Commerce, noted that he is also a veteran. He emphasized the need for infrastructure improvements to help the agriculture and tourism industries in north Arkansas.

“How do you connect and tourism without good roads and a transportation infrastructure?” Largent said. “… North Arkansas needs to be heard.”

King, who has previously served in both chambers of the state legislature, said he authored the state’s voter identification law and exposed voter fraud. He noted that he carried Carroll County by a wide margin over Ballinger in a 2019 state Senate race — although Ballinger won the election with widespread support in other counties.

“One of things that I ran on was integrity and trust,” King said. “There are five or six former colleagues of mine that are in federal prison. When they steal from one program, guess what? They steal from everybody.”

STATE REPRESENTATIVE

Next up were candidates for the District 6 seat in the Arkansas House of Representatives. State Rep. Harlan Breaux was the first to speak, followed by Brian Ayers.

“I do want to say that I’ve been a part of the biggest tax cut in Arkansas history, as well as helped secure teacher pay,” Breaux said. “Law enforcement, I want you to know that you’ve got a $5,000 check coming in June.”

Ayers promised to “stand his ground” if elected.

“If I was given the opportunity, I pledge to you that I will stand my ground, whether it’s with my words or my weapon. I will stand my ground and represent the people of our community to the best of my ability.”

NORTHEAST CONSTABLE

Randy Langhover discussed his candidacy for the Northeast constable position, saying he has worked for 10 of the last 11 Carroll County sheriffs over the past 46 years.

“A constable has the same authority in their district that the sheriff does,” Langhover said. “… I’ve got a lot of experience and I love Carroll County.”

DISTRICT 4 JP

Geneice McCall and Hunter Rivett are the Republican candidates for the District 4 Justice of the Peace position on the Carroll County Quorum Court.

McCall said she has about 30 years’ experience in the government health field.

“I feel like we have several needs that we need to address in the coming years to make Carroll County compatible with the other counties in our state,” she said.

Rivet called for a more efficient county government.

“I don’t believe in big government,” he said. “I believe in effective government and that’s the only way Carroll County is going to move forward.”

TAX COLLECTOR

Krista Burnett and Brittany Blok are the two Republican candidates for the office of Carroll County

tax collector.

“I’m honored and excited to run for this position,” said Blok, who worked in the collector’s office for several years. “The tax collector’s office provides a vital service for our county. … I can jump right in and do the job.”

Blok, who works in the county assessor’s office, said her experience there would help in the collector’s office.

“I honestly don’t know the ins and outs of the tax collector’s office but it’s something I’m excited to learn,” she said.

CIRCUIT CLERK

The three Republican candidates for Carroll County circuit clerk are Denise Simone, Toni Hulsey and Sara Huffman.

Simone, a former deputy circuit clerk, said her experience there and handling bookkeeping duties for several businesses she and her husband have owned make her the most qualified candidate. She also said she will work to collect unpaid fines.

“I plan on taking time after you put me in office to get that done,” she said.

Hulsey, who worked in the circuit clerk’s Western District office in Eureka Springs before moving to the public defender’s office more than 12 years ago, said she is very familiar with the functions of the circuit clerk’s office. She said she handles the paperwork and budget for the public defender’s office. She also vowed to pursue unpaid fines owed to the county.

“There is so much money out there,” she said.

Huffman, who had a career in the banking industry before going to work for the circuit clerk’s Western District office in March 2021, said some of the processes in the office are “severely outdated.”

“My first goal will be to update our office to the here and now,” she said, adding that she would also ensure existing paper records are preserved and would institute a training and cross-training program for employees in the circuit clerk’s office.

COUNTY JUDGE

The three Republican candidates for county judge are Bud Phillips, Rodney Ballance Jr. and David Writer.

“I’m running on a leadership platform,” said Phillips, a cattle and poultry farmer and longtime president of the Green Forest School Board. “I’ll take on the hard issues.”

Ballance, who owns and operates a broadband internet company, said economic development is critical to his platform.

“Let’s bring businesses here to create jobs,” he said.

Writer, foreman for the county road department, said he would work to improve the relationship between county offices.

“I would make the county judge’s office work more efficiently with the other offices,” he said. “I would want to build relationships with the other elected officials. And we can work together to make this a better place.”

SHERIFF

Five Republican candidates are on the ballot for Carroll County sheriff: Bobby Engles, Robert Kennedy, Daniel Klatt, Matthew Dunham and Brad Handley.

Engles said he has 13 years of law enforcement experience.

“I’ve spent my entire adult life working toward this goal,” he said.

Engles said he would work closely with nonprofit organizations and meet regularly with the county’s police and fire chiefs.

Kennedy said he would “change everything” about the sheriff’s office.

“I will clean house,” he said. “I will get rid of the good old boy system.”

Klatt, a former lieutenant in the sheriff’s office, said he would work to “start getting the trust of the community back.”

“One of my top priorities is getting that trust of the community on the side of the sheriff’s office,” Klatt said. “If we do that we will all be successful and we can stop some of this nonsense that’s going on in the county.”

Handley said he would also like to get citizens more involved, as well as adding a grant writer for the sheriff’s office.

“I think county deputies need to be on county roads, not on state highways,” Handley said.

Dunham said he has 17 years of law enforcement experience.

“My priorities are having more deputies on county roads and making a lot of drug arrests,” he said.

ELECTION DATES

The preferential primary will be held Tuesday, May 24, with early voting beginning Monday, May 9. The final day to register to vote in the primary is Monday, April 25.

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