ONE OF US: Jim Keet.

  • ONE OF US: Jim Keet.

I mentioned yesterday that I’d asked Republican gubernatorial candidate Jim Keet about the fact that his name didn’t turn up as a presidential primary voter in 2008. We finally talked today. Just one of those things, he explained. He planned to vote, but weather delayed a return home from business travel and he couldn’t get to the polls. He added that he’d done all he could to encourage voters to back Mike Huckabee, who participated in a recent Keet fund-raiser.


My look at the voting records reminded me that Keet is a relative newcomer as a legal Arkansas resident. He only became a registered Arkansas voter again in January of this year. In the 2008 election, he was a resident of Gulf Breeze, Fla. He became a registered voter in Florida in May 2003 after moving there to work for and ultimately lead Barnhill’s Buffet, Inc., a restaurant chain headquartered in Pensacola. He struck a deal to sell the chain in 2004. The sale, for an undisclosed sum, was completed in 2005. Keet said he remained in Florida for several more years because he was trying to sell his house and two of his children were still in school in Florida. “It made sense to stay down there for a while. It didn’t have anything to do with taxes.”

There is no state income tax in Florida and no state tax on capital gains on, for example, stock sales. That tax advantage has lured many wealthy Arkansans to become Florida residents. Huckabee, his media career taking off, recently moved there (also to the Florida panhandle.)


Keet, a former Arkansas legislator, said he’d retained ownership of a house and various business enterprises in Arkansas during his time in Florida. “Anybody who ever asked, I’d always say I’m here on a mission, but Arkansas is my home.”

He moved back in early 2009 to begin work on opening Taziki’s restaurant in western Little Rock.