Vacancy in House District 12 race brings back former legislator, possible legal challenge

by Talk Business & Politics staff ([email protected]) 1,052 views 

Former State Rep. Jimmie Wilson, D-Helena-West Helena, could return to the Arkansas legislature more than two decades after his last term. However, legal action by the Republican Party of Arkansas could derail his effort.

In a special convention held Monday (July 13) to fill the vacancy created by the resignation of Rep. Chris Richey, D-Helena-West Helena, Wilson received 5 delegates to James Valley’s 3 delegates and none for candidate Michael Cravens.

Richey resigned the House District 12 seat to take a position as CEO of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Saline County. The district he represented includes Lincoln and Phillips counties.

Republicans had already fielded a candidate to vie for the seat, Barton-Lexa School District Superintendent David Tollett.

Wilson, 74, who served in the Arkansas House in the 1990’s, was one of the litigators for the landmark Lake View School District lawsuit. He also pleaded guilty in 1991 to illegally converting federal farm loans to personal use. After being sentenced to four months in prison, he was eventually pardoned by then-President Bill Clinton in 2001.

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.

Wilson’s record prompted Doyle Webb, chairman of the Republican Party of Arkansas, to suggest the GOP would challenge Wilson’s nomination.

“If the Democratic Party of Arkansas fails to take action and remove this convicted criminal from the ballot, the Republican Party of Arkansas will take the necessary action,” said Webb.

Michael John Gray, chairman of the Democratic Party of Arkansas, responded.

“Jimmie Wilson is well-respected across the Delta for his leadership and as a civil rights advocate. The Democratic Party of Arkansas stands firmly behind our nominee, who was duly elected by the voters of the district,” said Gray. “Mr. Wilson has previously served in the Arkansas Legislature and has committed no wrongdoing that prevents him from continuing to serve his community. If the Republican Party tries to steal this election in a majority African-American district, shame on them. We should let voters decide who represents them, not courts.”