The Sebastian County filing period closed on March 1 at noon, finalizing a number of contested races for the May preferential primary and November general elections.
While the majority are uncontested, races to watch will include the County Judge, County Treasurer/Collector, County Sheriff, and County Assessor positions. Additionally, three of 13 slots on the quorum court will be contested.
The race for County Judge will find Republican incumbent David Hudson vying for another term in a position he has held since 1998. Until mid-morning on March 1, he had a single Democratic challenger: former Republican and Sebastian County Circuit Clerk Ken Blevins, who told Talk Business & Politics in a recent interview he wanted to “drain the Sebastian County swamp” and accused Hudson of “raping” his career when he served as Circuit Clerk.
Blevins blames Hudson for being behind the multiple accusations of sexual harassment that were made against him in 2011. The charges resulted in Blevins filing a lawsuit against Hudson, which he would eventually lose at the Arkansas Supreme Court in April of 2016. Hudson has refused to comment further on Blevins’ accusations.
While it appeared the two would be heading for a one-on-one showdown, Fort Smith attorney and Democrat Mosie Boyd threw her hat in the ring late Thursday to force a primary against Blevins for May 22. Boyd said she was running in part to “protect the outstanding team of Democratic candidates in 2018” and said she stood “with county employees who accused former Republican Circuit Clerk Ken Blevins of sexual harassment and wrongful termination, and with those who held him accountable.”
Blevins’ last political bid was against Democratic Circuit Clerk Denora Coomer in the May 22, 2012 primary. Coomer captured 69% of the vote to Blevins’ 31%. The post-sexual harassment contest showed the allegations had damaged Blevins, who won the general election as a Republican in 2010 with 55%.
The county judge position is responsible for administration of county government through finance, human resources, information systems, purchasing, emergency management, and facilities maintenance.
COLLECTOR, SHERIFF, AND ASSESSOR
At the County Treasurer/Collector level, Republican incumbent Judith Miller will have to fend off a primary challenge from fellow Republican — and current Sebastian County Human Resources Director — Steve Hotz. Miller previously defeated Hotz in the May 20, 2014 Republican primary, receiving 61% of the vote. Whoever wins between Miller and Hotz in May will face Democrat Jeannie Wilson in November’s general. The county office is responsible for the investments and distribution of county revenues and the collection of personal and real estate taxes.
The County Sheriff race, which will be vacated by Sebastian County Sheriff Bill Hollenbeck at the end of his term, is a three-way race between current Sebastian County Chief Deputy Hobe Runion, former Fort Smith Police Captain Jarrard Copeland, and 58-year-old Mansfield retiree Randy McFadden. McFadden has a 20-year law enforcement career that includes time with the Springdale Police Department, and as a reserve deputy sheriff for Sebastian and Washington counties. All three candidates are running as Republicans.
As for the County Assessor post, Republican incumbent Zach Johnson will face another challenge from fellow Republican Susan Clem of Greenwood, who filed late Thursday. The two previously met in the 2016 Republican primary. Johnson defeated Clem 60%-40%. Johnson took over as assessor in December 2016 following the retirement of former assessor Becky Yandell. He also has served as the in-house county appraisal manager. Clem has more than a decade of experience with Sebastian County. She is a former office manager for the Assessor’s Office and former validation deputy for the Sheriff’s Office.
The assessor position is responsible for estimating the value of real property within city, town, and village boundaries, which helps in the determination of real property taxes.
Republican Bruce Wade will challenge Democrat Valeria Robinson for the District 8 Justice of the Peace position that will be vacated by incumbent Donald Carter at the end of his term. Also, District 12 incumbent and Republican Bob Schwartz will face Democratic challenger Jo Anne Elsken; and District 13 incumbent and Republican Rick Reedy will face Democratic challenger Susan Simkowski. The quorum court is Sebastian County’s 13-member governing body.