State Rep. Warwick Sabin is “exploring” a race for Little Rock mayor in 2018 against incumbent Mayor Mark Stodola.

Sabin issued a formal statement embargoed for release Sunday morning, in advance of a series of public appearances. I’ve informed the campaign that, in keeping with long practice, I wouldn’t honor a pre-emptive embargo issued without prior agreement on the receiving end. Additionally, his announcement was known to others who’ve spoken to me.


Sabin’s release appears to be a full-fledged announcement in all but precise language. He’s been doing spadework for months, along with some other potential candidates. Mayor of the state’s largest city is widely viewed as a better position than, say, being a Democrat in a legislature with an overwhelming hard-right Republican majority. Sabin, who was president of the student body at the University of Arkansas, once harbored an interest in running for governor and might still, though, again, the changing Arkansas political landscape is a factor.

Rep. Clarke Tucker
of Little Rock said Friday he, too, is considering a race for mayor in 2018.

Other dominoes are falling. Tippi McCullough says she’ll be running for Sabin’s House seat in the Democratic primary if he vacates it, as he appears likely to do. She’s a Democratic Party activist and teacher.


There’s high interest among ambitious black politicians, too, because the city is about 40 percent African-American and that base typically gives strong support to black candidates. A runoff is held in mayoral elections if no candidate gets 40 percent of the vote. With 17 months to go until an election, much could happen.

Mayor Mark Stodola, completing his third four-year term, was unopposed in 2014 and is expected to run again in 2018. I’ve asked his comment, but no response as yet. He and Sabin were both on hand for a meeting about crime at Hall High last night.


UPDATE: He provided this statement through an assistant:

“While I intend to run for reelection, my number one priority is Little Rock and the current challenges we are facing, not a political race that is 17 months away.”

Grumbling about City Hall is a Little Rock tradition but Stodola’s current posture is more problematic than typical if for no other reason than the rising concern about violent crime, capped by last Friday’s mass club shooting. Stodola was acknowledged, but not at the front of the room with Gov. Asa Hutchinson Thursday when he announced a multi-agency effort to address crime in Little Rock, something that the governor said was damaging to the entire state’s effort to develop. The backhanded slap at city leadership was obvious.

Stodola has also been unable to build strong majorities on the city board.

Sabin didn’t mention Stodola in his prepared release but his campaign slogan is a clear enough jab: “New Energy. New Ideas.” The release elaborated: “Citing a need for new energy and new ideas to help create jobs, improve education and keep Little Rock safe,  Sabin vowed to visit and listen to every corner of the city.”


Sabin opposed the Little Rock school tax extension, which was overwhelmingly defeated. Stodola supported it.  Sabin has criticized the 30 Crossing project to widen Interstate 30, a project Stodola has joined with his usual allies at the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce in supporting.

Sabin, a former associate editor of the Arkansas Times and publisher of Oxford American,  has also worked for the Clinton Foundation and founded the Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub. He’s now senior U.S. program director at Winrock International, the development organization.

His scheduled appearances Sunday span the diverse components of the city: from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Sunday at the Bernice Garden Farmers Market; noon to 1 p.m. at Delicious Temptations on Rodney Parham Road, and 1:30-2:30 p.m. at Hindman Park in Southwest Little Rock.