Last week, Sen. Gary Stubblefield of Branch told The Tolbert Report that he planned to challenge Senate Pro Tempore-Designate Jonathan Dismang for the Pro Tempore position. Stubblefield said that he was unhappy with Dismang’s decision to hire James Miller, who campaigned against him, and he said he was dissatisfied with some discussions of committee chair assignments. But on the eve of the Republican caucus vote, Stubblefield is retreating.
Stubblefield has not returned a phone call seeking comment this evening, but incoming Republican Majority Leader Jim Hendren confirms that Stubblefield sent a letter dropping his planned challenge. A copy of the letter was forwarded to Max Brantley at the Arkansas Times but it has been widely circulated and a copy has also been obtained by The Tolbert Report, which you can read at the bottom of this post.
“Numerous phone calls, emails, and text messages delivered messages of support for my announcement,” wrote Stubblefield. “At the same time, serious and sometimes contentious discussions occurred with the Senate itself. Out of these discussions, I believe the beginnings of a new style of leadership emerged in the Senate.”
“I love this state and her citizens. I love what we believe in. I also love the Arkansas Senate and what it stands for. Therefore, today I informed the Republican Caucus of the Arkansas Senate I removed myself from further consideration to become the Senate President Tempore. This is not because I could not win or was just giving up. Quite the contrary, I am doing this to force change and bring about a healing of the rifts at the same time,” continued Stubblefield.
“My opposition to the Private Option is no less, my will to fight to keep government out of the citizen’s pockets and off their backs is just as strong,” said Stubblefield.
Stubblefield hoped to convince a majority of the 23 Republicans to back his bid in a planned caucus meeting Thursday evening. Then, he hoped to persuade all 23 Republicans to vote as a bloc on Friday where 18 votes of the 34 current Senate members are needed to select a new Pro Tempore.
I guess we will never know for sure if Stubblefield could have pulled off his coup as he withdrew before actually attempting it, but it appeared doubtful as it looked like more than half of the Republican caucus planned to stick with Dismang.