The Hempstead County election storyline for 2018 continues to be one of change as another incumbent was unseated in Tuesday's special run-off.
The Hempstead County election storyline for 2018 continues to be one of change as another incumbent was unseated in Tuesday’s special run-off.
Retired Hope businessman Steve Atchley emerged over first-term incumbent Justice Mikki Curtis by an unofficial count of 55 to 42 in a run-off limited to the Quorum Court’s District 7, which included a small portion of Hope and the Shover Springs area of Hempstead County.
The Hempstead County Clerk’s office confirmed that 97 persons voted in the run-off which included a single box at the Hope Coliseum, one in Shover Springs, and all early and absentee voting.
“I guess I pulled it out, Atchley said afterwards, “I am excited and very appreciative of the voters for selecting me as their candidate. I will do everything I can to provide my constituents good service and a voice in county government. I appreciate the voters putting their trust in me to serve.”
Both Atchley and Curtis ran as Republicans, and in the May 22 Primary, Atchley lead with 138 votes, followed by Curtis with 100 votes and a third candidate, local attorney Jim Burke with 82.
Atchley, however, did obtain the needed vote count to win the primary outright, and a surge by Curtis, put the two in a run-off Tuesday, although early voting had started June 12.
As with both Hempstead County Judge Haskell Morse and District 6 Justice Lynn Montgomery, who were other incumbents that faced primary opponents and were defeated, Curtis will still hold the District 7 seat the rest of the current calendar year until December 31.
Atchley, along with District 6’s newly elected Justice Troy Lerew, Sr., will assume the seats on January 1, 2019.
In the still-pending General Election on Tuesday, November 6, Republican Jerry Crane will face Democrat Allen Flowers for the right to succeed Morse as he new Hempstead County Judge. Either Crane or Flowers will also be sworn in January 1, 2019.
Atchley and Curtis are both graduates of Hope High School. Atchley from the Class of 1972, and Curtis, more recently, from the Class of 2008. Their initial race back in May, and then, run-off proved to be a relatively quiet affair, even as their backgrounds and experiences were the most diverse of the local primary candidates running.
Both Atchley and Lerew eventually emerged by tight margins; in May, Lerew’s margin of victory was just 10 votes, and Tuesday, Atchley won by 13.
Still to come for all Hempstead County voters is the November 6 General Election were the Hempstead County Judge’s race will be the big local contest. In addition, Arkansas is in an election cycle, so several statewide races will be on the ballot.
Both incumbent Governor Asa Hutchinson and US Congressman Bruce Westerman, both Republicans, are seeing strong challenges from Democrats. Hutchinson is facing former Teach for America director Jared K. Henderson.
Westerman, from Hot Springs, faces someone from his own backyard, Hayden Shamel, also a teacher like Henderson, and also from Hot Springs like Westerman.
Shamel does have local connection to Hope as she worked at the UA-Hope in 2011, where she was awarded the Outstanding Faculty Award by the Arkansas Association of Two Year Colleges.
Within the City of Hope, voters also see an election before November 6. On July 10, City of Hope voters will decide a referendum to change the city’s form of government from its current Board of Director/City Manager configuration to an elected Mayor/City Council form.
If the voters of Hope approve the change, then city voters will also have a pending election for a new Mayor and new City Council members.
If the voters of Hope decline the change, then three seats on the City’s Board of Directors are scheduled for election in 2018, including in Ward 1, currently held by Mark Ross; Ward 6 currently held by Don Still, and Ward 7, currently held by Steve Montgomery.
Montgomery was appointed Mayor, and Still, the Vice-Mayor, on January 3, 2017 by a closed vote of the seven Hope City Board of Directors. The Mayor’s position in Hope is not currently an elected one.
The other Hope City Board of Directors are Ward 2 Kiffinea Talley, Ward 3 Reginald Easter, Ward 4 Don Hall, and Ward 5 Trevor Coffee.
Talley was re-elected in the last election cycle in 2016 over challenger Jay Kopecky. Coffee emerged over Sharon Caldwell, also in 2016, for an open seat with the retirement of Dennis Ramsey, and the same cycle, Easter assumed the open seat with no challengers left by the retirement of Willie Walker.
Hall has served consecutive terms in Ward 4 since 2002, when he succeeded the then-retired J.C. Winemiller.