Doyle Webb and Michael John Gray don’t agree on much and that was abundantly clear when the two political party chairs sat down for a spirited roundtable on this week’s edition of Talk Business & Politics.
Webb, who leads the Republican Party of Arkansas, and Gray, the leader of the Democratic Party of Arkansas, started off at odds over a special House race in District 12 in Phillips County. Last week, Democrats selected former State Rep. Jimmie Wilson as their nominee, while Republicans had already fielded a candidate, David Tollett in the race. Rep. Chris Richey, who held the seat, resigned as he’s accepted a job far outside the district.
Wilson’s selection has stirred controversy as he was convicted of illegal use of federal farm loans in the 1990’s. Former President Bill Clinton pardoned Wilson in the late 1990’s, but that hasn’t quelled the controversy over whether or not Wilson can serve. Since Wilson last served, voters have approved a constitutional amendment to prohibit anyone convicted of a misdemeanor that involves “deceit, fraud or false statement” from holding office.
“Anytime you ask a legal question, that’s for the court to decide for now. Former Representative Wilson served, he was seated by the House after he was convicted. He certainly got a pardon from the president, which I think that if most Arkansans, a pardon, forgives you of those crimes and it takes them off your record,” Gray said. “So our stance is the people in Phillips County chose him to be the nominee, and we’re going to fight to continue to give them that opportunity to vote for him.”
“A pardon does not make you eligible for the ballot,” Webb countered. “And I’m having our attorneys research this, and if need be, we will go to court.”
Gray said Democrats want to win races at the ballot box, not in courtrooms.
“I guess if you’re worried about winning a race, you go to court, and I think we can win it at the ballot box. That’s what I want to do,” he said.
“We can win it at the ballot box, but I don’t want them to have a candidate that doesn’t serve the district that is removed by the House because he’s ineligible,” said Webb. “It’s wrong for the district. The rule of law always prevails or should prevail.”
Webb and Gray also discussed redistricting and rank voting ballot issues, the 2020 Presidential race, and the 2022 Governor’s race. Watch the full interview in the video below.