Even in Arkansas politics, there occasionally is a bit of sanity.
Consider Searcy County, a rural area nestled in the Ozarks and home to one of the more interesting runoff elections Tuesday.
In the race for the Republican nomination for county judge, a man once convicted — but later acquitted — of capital murder lost overwhelmingly.
Robert Baysinger, who’d already managed to live down that murder case enough to serve as a justice of the peace, lost to Tony Horton. The complete but unofficial vote, according to the county clerk’s office, was:
Horton has no Democratic opponent.
Horton, 55, owns a drywall business and said he thought Baysinger’s past legal problems, along with age, were factors in the outcome. Horton didn’t know Baysinger’s exact age and Baysinger could not be immediately reached for comment.
Baysinger has spent his share of time in courts over the years, and we’re not just talking about Quorum Courts where the elected justices of the peace who govern county business serve and the county judge presides.
Baysinger was convicted in 1976 of capital murder in the death of former sheriff Billy Joe Holder and was sentenced to life in prison without parole. In 1977, the Arkansas Supreme Court reversed his conviction. Baysinger was tried again and acquitted.
“All the locals know about it,” Horton said, referring to Baysinger’s past. After a while, people relatively new to the county started learning about it, too, Horton said.
Horton will succeed County Judge Jim Harness who pleaded no contest last year to a felony and several misdemeanors in a case involving his ex-wife. Harness and David Roberts lost in the May primary.
Except for Baysinger’s short time in prison after his original conviction, no one was ever punished for Holder’s death.