Gov. Mike Beebe (D) took the stand on Tuesday (May 8 ) in a federal trial challenging the validity of the state’s redrawn Senate boundaries. The lawsuit centers on a majority black district in eastern Arkansas currently held by State Sen. Jack Crumbly (D-Widener), who is African-American.
Crumbly is being challenged by State Rep. Keith Ingram (D-West Memphis), who is white.
Beebe testified today on the process for redrawing the lines, as reported by John Lyon with our content partner, the Arkansas News Bureau:
“The last thing on my mind was for Sen. Crumbly to be beaten,” said Beebe, who proposed the House and Senate maps the board approved. “I didn’t know he was going to have an opponent, and I dang sure didn’t know that Rep. Ingram was going to run. I thought exactly the opposite.”
In testimony Monday, former black candidates and political observers said that traditionally only substantial black majorities have given blacks an opportunity to elect candidates of their choice in eastern Arkansas. U.S. District Judge Leon Holmes, part of a three-judge panel hearing the case, asked Beebe on Tuesday why he moved a portion of predominantly black St. Francis County out of the district and added predominantly white northern Crittenden County, including Marion, to the district, resulting in a reduced black majority.
Beebe said he had to bring more people into the district to equalize population with other districts. Drawing the district the way Crumbly proposed drawing it would have meant extending neighboring counties in problematic ways, he said, noting that the board had 35 Senate districts to draw, not just one.
“It wasn’t a desire to reduce the black voting age population. In fact, it was the opposite,” he said.
Beebe was also questioned by Asa Hutchinson, his Republican opponent in 2006 who happens to represent GOP Secretary of State Mark Martin.
Questioning Beebe Tuesday, Hutchinson asked if Martin’s suggestions were given due consideration in the redistricting process.
“In all fairness and in all candor, most of his suggestions were discarded,” Beebe said.
You can read more here.