If you have not heard, Sen. Bruce "Fireball" Holland, R-Greenwood, was found guilty in a Perry County District Court yesterday of misdemeanor counts of fleeing, careless driving and improper passing.
"I was not fleeing Officer Byrd. I was not passing on a double yellow. I think we saw very early today that this was not going to go our way. I was obviously disappointed in the way this turned out and we will appeal to the next level," said Holland in a video posted to Arkansas Online. "I would have appealed anything that she charged me with fleeing because I am not guilty of fleeing. It’s possible that I may have clipped a yellow line out there and they can consider that improper passing and I would go along with that and I was speeding. But there is no doubt in my mind… I am certain that I did not know anybody was trying to pursue me, trying to pull me over."
Although the appeal is pending, the guilty verdict will have an impact on Holland’s re-election campaign. Although not likely to rise to the level of an "infamous crime," which would make him ineligible to serve, it likely will be a campaign issue. In addition, the sentence was for 400 hours of community service in Perry County, which needs to be completed in the next 12 months. That is the equivalent of 10 weeks of full-time work or every Saturday for the next year that Holland will have to do during the peak of campaign season.
On top of this, it looks like Holland will face a crowded Republican primary and a general election opponent, Rep. Tracy Pennartz, D-Fort Smith. Former Rep. Rick Green, R-Van Buren, has already announced for the seat and for all practical purposes has been campaigning for the senate since he was term limited in House in 2010. Former GOP Rep. John Verkamp, a lawyer from Charleston, is also expected to announce.
But the name I have heard some Republicans get excited about is Rep. Gary Deffenbaugh, R-Van Buren, who is serving his first term in the House. Deffenbaugh is a popular retired coach and has been a reliable conservative vote in the House. One source tells me a poll run in the district shows him with a sizable lead in the primary. If he gets in, he has a strong chance of winning. But the question is: does he go for the senate or play it safe and run for re-election in the House where he will have little or no opposition?
This race will be one to watch.