LG candidates debate issues, Jan. 6th riot

by Steve Brawner ([email protected]) 1,050 views 

The three candidates for lieutenant governor offered differing visions of the office in their Arkansas PBS debate Tuesday (Oct. 18), with one of them saying it shouldn’t exist.

The debate featured Republican Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, Democrat Kelly Krout, and Libertarian Frank Gilbert.

The lieutenant governor presides over the Senate when it is in session and serves as governor if the elected governor is unable to complete his or her term. The latter has happened twice in recent years. Then-Lt. Governor Jim Guy Tucker ascended to the governor’s office in 1992 when then-Gov. Bill Clinton became president. Then-Lt. Governor Mike Huckabee became governor in 1996 when Tucker was forced to leave office.

It has traditionally been a part-time office with a small staff. The current salary is $46,704 a year.

Asked if she would make it a full-time job, Rutledge said she has been a hard worker and would continue to be as lieutenant governor. In response to a question about security in a following press conference, she said the Arkansas State Police provides security, and she has received death threats and needs to protect her family.

Krout said she would not try to make it a full-time position. She said she would push for improvements to the state’s foster care system. Gilbert, who at another point in the debate said the position is unnecessary, said if elected that when he awoke in the morning, he would check to see if the governor had been indicted or had died, and if not, he would roll over and go back to sleep.

Asked about their qualifications for the office, Rutledge pointed to her eight years as attorney general and said she is ready to be governor. She said she will be an economic ambassador and will work to eliminate the income tax. Krout referenced her work as a foster parent and a licensed social worker. Gilbert, an in-school supervisor at Bauxite High School, said he was mayor of Tull for eight years and also has served as a constable and coroner.

The three candidates were asked about their ability to reach across the aisle and reduce partisanship. Rutledge said she has worked with legislators for eight years. Krout said she previously was more conservative so she understands how different people think, and as a mother of seven sons, she can handle the Senate. Gilbert said legislators do not want a member of the executive branch looking over their shoulder.

In response to a question, Rutledge said President Joe Biden was legitimately elected president of the United States. Her criticism of him was because of his actions since he became president, which is why she had taken more than 100 legal actions against his administration. Krout said Rutledge has been engaged in frivolous attacks.

Rutledge said that while violence must be opposed, it’s time to move past the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. She noted that individuals protesting police actions defaced the Arkansas Capitol. Krout agreed that it’s time to move past the Jan. 6 riot, but people need to be held accountable for their actions. She said she is raising her sons not to engage in such behavior. Gilbert acknowledged he had once been a member of the Oath Keepers, one of the groups involved in the riot, but that he had left when the group didn’t send him a second bill. He called it a “good organization.”

Rutledge declined to take positions on the constitutional amendments on the ballot but did say the Constitution should be more difficult to amend. Issue 2 would increase the percentage of voters needed to amend the Constitution or pass an initiated act from 50% to 60%. Krout said Issue 2 is the most important one because it would make it harder for voters to make changes and would allow the minority to rule. Gilbert said Issue 4, which would legalize recreational marijuana, is written in a way to let eight licensees “get filthy rich.” While he hates that, he hates even more that people are being arrested for possession. As an Uber driver, he often gives rides to people on probation for marijuana offenses.

The three candidates were asked about the kind of people they would appoint to the Ethics Commission as lieutenant governor. Rutledge said she had already appointed commissioners as attorney general and had started a Public Integrity Division in that office. Krout called for transparency and honesty. Gilbert said he would not make appointments based on politics.

Asked about ensuring an equitable education, Rutledge said parents should be given choices in education and said the state should promote workforce education. Krout said public schools should be funded properly and that public funds should stay with public schools. She called for increasing teacher salaries by $4,000. Gilbert said state government should not be involved in schools. In the press conference, he said the state should eliminate the Department of Education, and all schools should be private.

Asked about the role state government should play in transitioning the state to cleaner, renewable energy, Rutledge said the country’s energy policies should be clean and renewable but also diverse. She said Biden’s policies are making the country less energy independent. She said she is married to a row crop farmer and that farmers are conservationists. Krout said the state should be more proactive rather than reactive in its environmental policies. Gilbert said government policies create winners and losers, the winners being those connected with the government that is running the program and the losers being the taxpayers.