Republican Lt. Gov. candidate State Representative Andy Mayberry (R-Hensley) called on Lt. Gov. Mark Darr (R) to resign amidst a recent ruling from the Arkansas Ethics Commission, and other candidates and legislative leaders joined the chorus calling for Darr to step down.
On Tuesday, Darr accepted an $11,000 fine from the commission for violations concerning discrepancies on his campaign filing reports. The violations were brought to the Ethics Commission’s attention through a complaint filed by blogger Matt Campbell.
Mayberry, who announced for Lt. Gov. last fall, issued the following statement:
First and foremost – regardless of political ideology – the public’s trust in their elected officials should reign supreme. That is why today I am publicly encouraging Lt. Gov. Mark Darr to resign. This action follows a phone conversation I initiated with the lieutenant governor two days ago during which we discussed the matter.
In light of the recent findings of the Arkansas Ethics Commission and the Legislative Audit Committee, I believe it is in the best interest of the state of Arkansas for Lt. Gov. Darr to vacate his position. I hope he will take this action soon. In his role presiding over the Senate, I believe Lt. Gov. Darr’s presence during the upcoming fiscal session could prove to be an unnecessary distraction as the legislature hopes to focus its full attention on other important issues facing our state.
Today’s announcement is difficult for me, personally, because I appreciate Lt. Gov. Darr’s strong conservative stance on a number of issues. Conversely, I cannot simply overlook the fact that the penalty levied by the Arkansas Ethics Commission against Lt. Gov. Darr is the strongest in that agency’s history. I do not believe his actions are as egregious as those of other public officials such as Democrats Martha Shoffner, Paul Bookout and Hudson Hallum, all of whom have recently resigned amidst scandal. However, the cumulative effect of these elected officials being charged with ethics violations in such short order has moved the bar regarding Arkansans’ confidence in their elected office-holders.
Before making today’s announcement, I gave myself a litmus test: If a member of the opposing political party had admitted to these same violations under the same circumstances, would I expect that person to resign? The answer is undoubtedly “yes.” If that would be my answer for a Democrat, that needs to be my answer for a Republican, too.
I have been a candidate for lieutenant governor since Lt. Gov. Darr first announced he would seek another office, creating a vacancy, and before any ethics violations had been alleged against him. From the beginning of my campaign, I have made “ethics” one of the five key components of my platform. As a candidate for lieutenant governor, I have been asked my thoughts on this issue by a number of people. I think it is a fair question to ask of all who seek this office.
I acknowledge that if Lt. Gov. Darr resigns, a special election might be held to fill the vacancy. I also recognize that as a sitting state representative, I would not be eligible to run in a proposed special election. From a personal perspective, I understand that traditional political wisdom would indicate that Mark Darr’s resignation might diminish my own opportunities to win a general election against an incumbent elected during a special election. In the end, though, we all have to do what we believe is the right thing and accept the outcome, whatever that may be. It is imperative that we return trust to the public arena if our Republic is to survive.
UPDATE: Gov. Mike Beebe (D) said on Tuesday that Darr should resign from office.
John Burkhalter, the only Democrat seeking the Lt. Governor’s post, offered this comment on Thursday afternoon:
I have always believed as an Arkansan and a businessman that the most sacred responsibility any elected official holds is personal integrity and the public’s trust. Arkansans need to know that the second-highest ranking official in state government is someone they can trust and depend on to do the right thing. These admitted state law violations by Mr. Darr cloud the trust people place in the Lieutenant Governor’s office and I believe he needs to resign.
But let me say this – a second spent talking about a breach in the public trust is a moment we’re not talking about growing small businesses, creating more jobs, educating our workforce, and expanding Arkansas’s middle class. This distraction is a disservice to the hardworking families of Arkansas.
And late Thursday, Democratic members of the Arkansas House said they are prepared to push for impeachment of Darr if he does not resign before the fiscal session in February.
Ryan Saylor and Michael Tilley with our content partner, The City Wire, report comments from Rep. Harold Copenhaver, D-Jonesboro, speaking on behalf of the House Democratic Caucus.
“We as a caucus are (saying) that if a resignation does not occur, that due to his unethical actions in office he has lost the trust of the people of Arkansas and under Article 15, Section 1 of the Arkansas Constitution, we would move forward with the impeachment process in the House of Representatives,” Copenhaver said.
The Arkansas House of Representatives has the power to initiate impeachment of constitutional officers and other public officials.
Requests for comment from Rep. and GOP Lt. Gov. candidate Charlie Collins has also been made. Talk Business will update this story later.