Leslie Rutledge: Will she or won’t she?

Here’s an open line and a simple yes/no open question for Attorney General Leslie Rutledge:

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Will you file for an Arkansas Supreme Court seat when filing opens Nov. 4?

I ask because, though Rutledge made appearances on two political programs on TV this weekend, she managed to avoid specific answers on  her future political plans. This is in keeping with the gentle treatment given politicians on such shows (lest they not appear in the future.)

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On Channel 7, Rutledge brushed off a question about her political future (she’s been mentioned as a candidate for Supreme Court in the March election and governor in 2022) by saying: “We’ll see. It’s over three years until we elect our next governor – that’s three football seasons. A lot can happen in the next three years… we’re not going to rule anything out.”

Yes, but it is not even one full football season — only 10 weeks, in fact — until filing opens for the seat on Supreme Court held by Justice Jo Hart, a friend of Rutledge and once an employer when she was on the Court of Appeals and Rutledge was a law clerk. There are rumors that Hart will not seek re-election (she’d have to forfeit judicial retirement benefits if she does because she’d be 76 when re-elected) but she’s keeping her plans secret. That could be, the rumors go, to help Rutledge make a last-minute filing while discouraging other candidates. Circuit Judge Morgan “Chip” Welch, in part because of the prospect of such a deal, is actively considering the race now.

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A simple yes or no from Rutledge or Hart could clear the issue up. As I wrote Friday, both declined to take questions from me. Perhaps someone who enjoys access to Rutledge will pose the direct question . She’s happy to engage in talk on popular political topics — against robocalls and the dangers of vaping, for example in recent TV interviews. Vaping is suddenly in need of a special legislative session, she says, though Rutledge was absent from discussions on the topic during the recently concluded legislative session, when the vaping industry protected itself from serious regulation. It even exempted itself from local regulation and killed efforts to tax the product. The age to purchase tobacco and vaping materials was raised to 21.