Tangled treasurer tales (Updated)

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 224 views 

Who knew that a little sightseeing tour of the upper reaches of the Arkansas Capitol recently would turn into a World War III skirmish?

Even if you are an Arkansas Republican don’t you find that a little silly?

Well, button up your chin straps guys and gals of the Grand Old Party, it is about to get really ugly in the Arkansas Republican primary of 2014. Specifically, ugly on one of the down ballot races, that of State Treasurer.

Tthe Democrats of Arkansas, still reeling from the shame of former Treasurer Martha Shoffner’s “pie-box” scandal, have all but abandoned any real chance of winning that office. But this no-holds bared school yard scuffle in the GOP primary by two high profile candidates for the State Treasurers office is a real distraction to plans by the Republican Party to confidently win that office.

The constant back-and-forth between Dennis Milligan and state Rep. Duncan Baird, is embarrassing – no matter which wing of the GOP (aka Tea Party, Moderate or Conservative) one subscribes to these days.

Baird was one of a group of state Representatives (all Republican) who showed up at the State Capitol building in Little Rock in the early morning hours of Oct. 18. This was during the Special Session, in fact the very day before the final day of the session which would end after midnight the following morning.

The group, Baird of Lowell, Micah Neal of Springdale, John Burris of Mountain Home and House Speaker Davy Carter of Cabot, had all been out to an area restaurant burning the midnight legislative oil.

That’s what Arkansans of both parties have come to expect of Legislators since the time of dram shops situated along the Arkansas River. Legislators come to town, they work hard all day dreaming up bill and then furiously getting them passed into law. After that comes some relaxation at area restaurants and “watering holes.”

Too bad the famous bars of old, Marion Hotel’s “Gar Hole,” or the infamous “Flaming Arrow Club” a favorite of the late Knox Nelson, have long since closed down. Where ever these four frequented, they met two more friends to come tag along – both female.

Katherine Vasilos, a long time GOP operative and another female, yet to be identified came into the Capitol for the tour. Burris, it should be pointed out is the lone bachelor in this group.

Capitol Security guards pointed out to the group the late hour and said a tour was not to be taken without the permission of the building’s responsible party – Secretary of State Mark Martin (R). The solons decided to make their own tour. The did not, according to the building’s security cameras, access the dome, as they had wanted to do.

Burris had said it was a good place to smoke a cigar. Said he’s been there before – to smoke a cigar no doubt after a legislative victory.

After wandering the hallways, both public and private areas, until around 3 a.m. the sightseeing party was over. They all went home. Just another legislative memory of serving the state.

But weeks later, Dennis Milligan of Benton brought up this late night tour to the public. Wonder how he found out? Milligan, you see, is an announced candidate for State Treasurer.  So is state Rep. Duncan Baird of Lowell. Milligan, a former GOP party head and the current Saline County Circuit Clerk, first phoned and later met with Baird at a donut shop. Baird is an investment counselor when not down in Little Rock creating legislation.

Both those meetings, via the telephone and in person at a donut shop, according to differing accounts by both men, have turned the situation “ugly.” Baird was asked to “step down” from the race for State Treasurer by Milligan, Baird says. Milligan allegedly threatened to make the little early morning tour a news item “..on the 7 o’clock news,” if Baird didn’t leave the race.

Both are ridiculous accusations.

Bullying Baird into leaving the race isn’t happening.

And someone needs to tell Milligan by 7 p.m. credible news stations have signed off the air for the early evening hours.

Milligan has been on a conservative talk radio show, broadcast in his own backyard in Central Arkansas, and said he would “put my hand on a Bible. They'll say I am trying to blackmail him out of the race or I tried to blackmail him out of the race. Absolutely not.”

Baird, to his credit, did meet privately with Milligan, tape recording all what was said. Hmmm … There must be a pre-existing trust factor involved between these two men.

Baird said to one media outlet he recorded the call, because as Milligan noted on the tape, “In politics …. we’ve all got our opponents. But to take it a little worse, we all have our enemies.”

Especially during  these days as the race for the GOP nomination for Arkansas State Treasurer just got interesting.