Newspaper endorsements sometimes aren’t worth the pixels they’re printed on, much less the paper. Here at the Times, we wear our hearts on our sleeves most of the time anyway, but we’ve just about decided to get out of the endorsement business beyond the various opinion articles on specific races.
Sometimes, though, endorsements are interesting. Like today. The Northwest Arkansas Online (a combined effort of the Stephens/Hussman newspaper operations in Northwest Arkansas), today carries an editorial endorsing Democrat Nate Steel for attorney general over Leslie Rutledge, the Republican. This is Republican territory. The media outlet isn’t uniformly Republican in temperament by any means (see three recent endorsements of Democratic legislative candidates in BENTON COUNTY), but it did endorse Asa Hutchinson today and a break from local sentiment best be accompanied by some sound reasoning. I think they provided it. In addition to saying Steel has a good record as lawyer, legislator and prosecutor, it notes that he is also NOT Leslie Rutledge.
Rutledge, the GOP contender, earned our endorsement in her primary last spring, but in the months since, evidence has grown that she’s not a good fit to be Arkansas’ top lawyer. Her botched voter registration, an email any reasonable person would view as, at best, racially insensitive, and her almost consuming focus on what’s happening in Washington, D.C., more than in Arkansas tell us there’s a better option.
To the point.
We also have been critical on Rutledge’s politically expedient battle cry of focusing on Barack Obama, rather than running a huge state law firm with such duties as overseeing Medicaid fraud probes (Rutledge’s biggest financial backer is a nursing home tycoon) or representing the state in criminal appeals.
Qualifications count. In a debate the other day on KARK, after Nate Steel explained his pivotal role in attempting to shape a constitutional death penalty law, Rutledge countered that she’d find a competent attorney to advise her on the matter. Suggesting ……… that competency didn’t necessarily began where she sat.
And then there’s this: Last night, the attorney general candidates spoke to a chapter of the Inns of Court, a lawyer education organization whose members typically include some of the most cerebral of the local bar. Rutledge, I was told by a lawyer there, set about to “educate” this group about why she was right to focus on fighting Washington.
She dredged up a 1943 state statute — 25-21-101, a bit of war years states rights boilerplate — that says it’s the duty of the attorney general to study federal legislation for potential states rights encroachment. It is a slim, long-ignored reed on which to mount a campaign that pays little attention to the meaningful duties of the office.
Such public deficiencies continue to support the view of the Department of Human Services that Rutledge shouldn’t be rehired as a staff lawyer, much less the state’s top lawyer.