AR: Fisher makes it official
- April 03, 2002 Arkansas
Fisher's run for governor official
BY SETH BLOMELEY -ARKANSAS DEMOCRAT-GAZETTE
A Scripture-quoting Jimmie Lou Fisher filed Tuesday to run for
governor as a Democrat, promising to listen to Arkansans' concerns as
she develops issues in the race against Gov. Mike Huckabee, a
Fisher, state treasurer since 1981, greeted about 300 cheering
supporters as she walked from the treasurer's office at the state
Capitol into the rotunda to file candidacy papers for the 2002
"For 32 years I have served as an elected official ... and I've
always tried to do my best for you, the people of Arkansas," she told
the gathering. "I've gotten to know you and learned about your
families. I've shared your hopes and your fears. Now I am ready to
pursue your hopes and address your fears."
Fisher filed on the last day of the period for filing for the party
primaries. Filing, which began March 19, attracted 423 candidates --
206 Democrats, 104 Republicans and 113 nonpartisan judicial
candidates -- for the 274 top federal, state and district offices
open this year.
The Democratic Party, which had appeared in danger of having no
gubernatorial candidate, ended up with three. Fisher, 60, of
Paragould will face two opponents in the party primary May 21. Dr.
James D. Billie of Little Rock, a cosmetic surgeon, and Joe Holmes of
Pine Bluff, a former Jefferson County prosecuting attorney, filed
Huckabee has one Republican opponent, Doyle Cannady, 62, of Maumelle,
a floral shop owner, who filed two weeks ago.
Anti-tax advocate Oscar Stilley of Fort Smith, an attorney, also has
said he intends to file for the governor's race by petition as a
Libertarian candidate. But he has filed no candidacy papers.
Secretary of State Sharon Priest said the Libertarian Party isn't a
recognized party in Arkansas.
Fisher supporters had signs saying: "Another teacher for Jimmie Lou"
and "You go, girl!" Some chanted "Jim-mie Lou! Jim-mie Lou!"
"Recently I began to rethink my retirement. Encouragement has not
only been gratifying to me, but it was a clear indication to me that
you, the people of Arkansas, not only desire, but are crying out for
a strong, effective governor. I will not shy away from a challenge,
and I will not ignore what my heart tells me to do."
Fisher was elected Greene County treasurer in 1970. She worked
briefly as a staff member for Gov. Bill Clinton before Clinton
appointed her state auditor. Although a political veteran, she's
never faced a statewide contested race. She was elected treasurer in
1980 without an opponent. Since then, no one has challenged her.
She's term-limited from seeking re-election as treasurer. She had
planned to run for auditor before deciding last year to retire
following the death of a close friend. The Democratic Party even
threw a retirement banquet for her in December.
But some Democrats, including former U.S. Sen. Dale Bumpers, urged
her to challenge Huckabee. Bumpers defeated Huckabee in the U.S.
Senate race of 1992.
Huckabee is seeking his second four-year term. He ascended to
governor from lieutenant governor in 1996 following the resignation
of Gov. Jim Guy Tucker after Tucker's felony conviction. Huckabee was
elected to a full term in 1998 and has already raised $1 million for
his '02 campaign. A nonpartisan poll in October showed him with a 70
percent approval rating.
Since then, however, the Huckabee administration announced budget
cuts of $142 million. Lawmakers urged Huckabee to call a special
legislative session to deal with the cuts, especially those to
Medicaid. But the governor refused.
Fisher didn't criticize Huckabee directly but later said in an
interview that some people had contacted her to express
dissatisfaction with his handling of the cuts.
First lady Janet Huckabee was in the crowd surrounded by Democrats
during Fisher's speech. She was there to support Robinson and Randy
Bynum, 42, of Little Rock, a businessman and attorney, who filed as a
Republican for state treasurer. Janet Huckabee is running for
secretary of state as a Republican.
"I admire anyone who's filing to put their names on the line," Janet
Huckabee said of Fisher's speech. "I really do. It doesn't matter
what party, man, woman, whatever. Mike Huckabee has done so much for
the state of Arkansas. He's going to run a good and clean campaign,
and it's going to be a great campaign."
She said she's not sure how much money she'll be able to raise, but
that she won't be able to match Huckabee. She'll have a rally at the
Greene County courthouse in Paragould today and will discuss issues
in detail further into the campaign.
Huckabee spokesman Jim Harris said, "This is her day and the governor
hopes she enjoys it. There will be plenty of time to deal with
[issues] after the primary election."
The entrance of Billie and Holmes allows Fisher to collect more
money. Without a primary opponent, contributors could only give once,
for the general election. Now, they can give for the primary and the
general election, but Fisher could save the money for the race with
Huckabee. Huckabee also benefited financially when Cannady filed.
Officials from both parties have said they didn't instigate the
challengers to file for the sake of fund-raising.
Billie, 54, whose photo is on the cover of the Little Rock-North
Little Rock telephone book, and Holmes, 75, quickly left the Capitol
John Walker said not enough is being done in the Legislature to help
"The only thing I see is the naming of a holiday for Daisy Bates,
which means nothing for all practical purposes because it's on
Presidents Day and is diminished," Walker said. "That sort of
denigrates the importance of her work."
Bates was a mentor for black students who desegregated Little Rock
Central High School in 1957.
Senate President Pro Tempore Mike Beebe, D-Searcy, ended up with no
opponent in the race for attorney general. Attorney General Mark
Pryor, a Democrat, is running against U.S. Sen. Tim Hutchinson, R-Ark.
Three of Arkansas' four U.S. House members have opponents at some
point in this year's elections: 1st District U.S. Rep. Marion Berry,
a Democrat, faces a Republican challenger in the general election
Nov. 5; 2nd District U.S. Rep. Vic Snyder, a Democrat, faces a
Democratic primary challenger; 3rd District U.S. Rep. John Boozman, a
Republican, has no opponent. Two Republican have filed for the May 21
primary to challenge 4th District U.S. Rep. Mike Ross, a Democrat, in
the general election.
On Tuesday, 26 candidates filed -- nine Democrats, 13 Republicans and
four nonpartisan judicial candidates.