'TROUBLING': House Speaker Shepherd on felony charges against Republican legisaltor.

House Speaker Matthew Shepherd has issued a statement saying felony charges against Republican Rep. Mickey Gates are “troubling” and he’s suspended him from leadership position. He did not suggest that he resign.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who’d said in the context of another allegation of bribery against a sitting legislation (his nephew, Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson), that an indictment should prompt resignation from office. His office has not responded to my request for a comment on the Gates case.

Gates’ opponent did have a comment.

Shepherd’s statement:

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“I have been made aware of the arrest of Rep. Gates this morning.

It is deeply troubling to hear of any member of the House facing criminal charges.

In light of today’s developments, I have suspended Rep. Gates, effective immediately, from all House leadership and select committee positions and responsibilities. These positions include Chairman of the Aging Subcommittee of the House Aging, Children and Youth, Legislative and Military Affairs Committee, Vice-Chair of the Joint Budget Personnel Subcommittee, as well as his membership on the Joint Budget Committee and Joint Performance Review Committee.

I have informed Rep. Gates of my decision.

House leadership will continue to monitor and assess the situation to determine what further action may be necessary.”

Gates’ term runs through the end of this year. He faces a Democratic opponent in November. Should he stay on the ballot and win, a conviction would likely disqualify him from serving. If he took office and then became disqualified, a special election would be required to replace him. If he resigns before this term ends — which he has not indicated he plans to do — the Republican Party could not put a replacement nominee on the ballot.

I think it fair to mull what Republicans would be saying if these charges named a Democrat

UPDATE: Gates’ Democratic opponent Kevin Rogers issued a statement:

“It’s unfortunate for the people of the District 22 that our representative has refused to serve adequately, as well as broken the law for his entire time in public service. Our people deserve an elected official fully committed to continuing our pre-kindergarten and afterschool care program, to establishing a loan program to stimulate small businesses in rural communities, and to funding our world-class state medical system. “Those are issues I have held since day one. It’s time that for new leadership that takes seriously Arkansans’ tax dollars and the services Arkansans deserve.”.

Update: a further comment from Shepherd to my question of why resignation was not in order.

“Given that the arrest just occurred today, I want to take time to review the allegations and gather and consider the facts of the matter to determine what further action may be warranted. I have suspended him from his leadership and select committee positions.

“Best regards, Matthew”

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