Top House Democrat resigns from legislature, speculation centers on city of Little Rock job

by Wesley Brown ([email protected]) 832 views 

Democratic House Minority Leader Charles Blake, D-Little Rock, who made national waves during the recent legislative session with a bill to remove any links to Arkansas’ Confederate past from the state flag, has stepped down from the District 36 seat in the Arkansas General Assembly, the Democratic Party of Arkansas announced Thursday (May 16).

When reached by Talk Business & Politics, Blake said he was “weighing his options” concerning other career opportunities. Blake was first elected to the legislature in 2013 and served his third term in the recent 92nd General Assembly that ended in April.

Blake said he was stepping down because he wanted to make sure District 36 had a full-time legislator, and did not want to be a distraction concerning speculation about this future. He also wanted to give any potential District 36 candidates a chance to come forward and campaign for the urban-focused seat, which includes a major portion of Pulaski County.

Blake would not directly answer questions on whether he is considering a position within the administration of Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott Jr., the first African American elected to lead the state’s largest city.

“I will make a decision soon, very soon,” Blake said about his future.

In the May 2018 primary, Blake was re-elected to his third term representing District 36 by defeating opponent Darrell Stephens, former president of the Arkansas Democratic Black Caucus. If there is a vacancy in the Arkansas legislature, Gov. Asa Hutchinson must call for a special election to fill the empty seat.

Blake, a Little Rock native, ascended to his leadership post as House Minority leader after the 2017 legislative session, where he succeeded Rep. David Whitaker, D-Fayetteville.

The Democratic Party chair thanked Blake for his leadership in the legislature to pursue “the next chapter of his life.”

“Minority Leader Charles Blake has made Arkansas better for all of us. In his three terms, Blake took on the hardest fights and delivered, including the unthinkable like ensuring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is honored alone on the calendar. When it came to tax relief, education, and criminal justice reform, Rep. Blake could be counted on to put Arkansas first,” said Gray. “I consider Charles a close friend and his positive demeanor and influence will be missed.”

Blake told Talk Business & Politics that a signature accomplishment during his tenure as House Minority leader was the passage of a measure at the end of the session to allow young illegal immigrants covered by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program to receive in-state tuition and obtain nursing licenses.

Blake is also a local small business owner and a Little Rock Central High school graduate, and held a top campaign post in Mayor Scott’s historic mayoral bid in November.

Stephanie Jackson, spokesman for Mayor Scott, was asked by Talk Business & Politics about Blake possibly taking on the role of chief of staff, which is now vacant.

“I can tell you that Mayor Scott plans to fill the chief of staff position soon,” said Jackson.

That position will likely be charged with carrying out the $2.1 million in budget cuts supported by the mayor. Earlier this week, the city’s board of directors delayed a decision on Mayor Scott’s revised $210.6 million budget for the remainder of 2019.