State Rep. Duncan Baird, a Republican candidate for state treasurer, has responded fully and forcefully to comments made yesterday by opponent Dennis Milligan concerning a late-night visit by Baird and several other Republican representatives to the Capitol during the Oct. 17-19 special session. (I’ve now added the secretary of state’s video record above.)
Milligan had, after using the FOI Act to produce information from Capitol police and video of the episode, talked to Baird about it. I heard about this, got the same information and asked Milligan about it. He issued a statement to me that suggested broadly, if not specifically, that it was worth voter consideration in the race.
Baird, however, sharply disputes Milligan’s account that he had not tried to force Baird out of the race. Baird says he even seemed prepared to offer an inducement for him to drop out. Milligan had told me he had merely told Baird that his knowledge of the event was evidence of Baird’s political “enemies.” Here’s what Baird said:
Yesterday, in response to press inquiries, Dennis Milligan stated, “However, at no time in our conversation did I ask him to get out of the race.” This is a false statement.
Last Thursday, my opponent called me and told me he had “damaging” information that I needed to know about. He said we couldn’t discuss the information on the phone and we needed to meet in person to determine what was going to happen.
When we met later that day, Milligan told me “Here’s the bottom line, you’re finding a new career, you’re not gonna run for state treasurer. Ok. Unless you want to see this on the 7:00 news.” As I left, he told me to let him know within a couple of hours if I changed my mind about running for Treasurer.
Holding office is a public trust. A public official must always be honest with the public and the press. Dennis Milligan stated that he never told me to get out of the race for State Treasurer, and that is a false statement.
Furthermore, Milligan told me when we met, “If you call me within a couple of hours, we’ll find you something else to do,” which in my opinion was an attempt to offer something if I dropped out of the race. This would be highly inappropriate conduct on the part of Mr. Milligan. Given the recent misconduct that occurred in the Treasurer’s office, voters have a right to expect those who seek their vote to be honest and to conduct themselves properly.
I believe the campaign for State Treasurer should be about the issues. For example, a reform proposal, SB838, was offered to fix the problems in the Treasurer’s office. I supported the reform proposal, but Mr. Milligan opposed it. He described the bill as “bad legislation”, saying “Under this bill I have to ask, ‘Why do we even need a treasurer if this passes?” according to quotes in an Arkansas News Bureau article.
Rather than discuss issues, Mr. Milligan wants to engage in political tricks and then be dishonest about it when challenged. Dennis Milligan’s conduct, dishonesty and opposition to reform of the Treasurer’s office are a clear contrast to my legislative record and how I conduct myself in public office.
Baird also answered some questions about his visit with Reps. John Burris and Micah Neal, Speker Davy Carter, former Republican official Katherine Vasilos and another woman to the capitol between roughly 1:30 and 3 a.m. Oct. 18. The visit was uneventful, he said, one of several late nights he and others had during the short session. “Nothing inappropriate happened,” he said.
I haven’t been able to reach Milligan to ask if he lied about the conversation and if he offered Baird a job to get out of the race. The Baird camp says Milligan is unhappy, to put it mildly. Milligan has posted this message on Twitter in response to a comment that he owed Baird an apology:
I owe him nothing, if anything he owes the citizens of Arkansas an apology.
Following are the questions as Baird put them and his answers, verbatim:
1) about the visit
We were in special session on the 17th, 18th, and 19th of October. I was in the Capitol both Thursday and Friday night after midnight. I was with colleagues and friends simply walking around and talking early the morning of the 18th. The full legislature met after midnight, the morning of the 19th, to conclude the business of the special session.
2) about the police sergeant statement that some seemed unsteady. (not that I observed in the video.)
I had dinner and drinks with friends that night. Nothing inappropriate happened, as is reflected by the video.
3) about the reported remark that secretary martin would hear about it.
I heard no threatening language directed at the law enforcement officers.