PINE BLUFF — Mayor Carl Redus Jr. says he’s ready to run for re-election — in two months or two years.
A special judge will hear arguments Tuesday in Little Rock in Redus’ lawsuit seeking to halt the city’s Nov. 6 mayoral election. The state Supreme Court assigned the case to Pulaski County Circuit Judge Jay Moody after all of the circuit judges in Jefferson County recused themselves.
On Sept. 5, Redus filed the suit seeking a declaratory judgment to halt the November mayoral election, citing a 1965 state law that says cities with populations of less than 50,000 should hold mayoral elections "on the Tuesday following the first Monday in November of 1970 and every four years thereafter."
According to the 2010 U.S. Census, Pine Bluff’s population fell below 50,000 over the past decade. Under the law Redus cites, the city’s next mayoral election should be held in 2014.
"We’re looking forward to it. We want to know what the law says as to what’s the right thing to do," Redus said Wednesday after Moody scheduled arguments in the case.
The mayor said he was prepared to move forward regardless which way the judge ultimately rules.
"We’ll deal with it in either sense," he said. "We have a campaign headquarters and we’re up and running. My opinion is that since the city fell below 50,000 in population, we should have mid-term elections. But we need clarification on the law, however."
Secretary of State Mark Martin filed legal papers this week seeking dismissal of the mayor’s lawsuit, contending that a 1967 state law supersedes the law Redus cites in his lawsuit. The 1967 law says that in the event of a population change, a law that was applicable to a city before the change would still be applicable afterward. Under the law, Pine Bluff should still hold its mayoral election this year, Martin argued.
The secretary of state also asked to be dropped as a defendant in the lawsuit.
The lawsuit named Martin, Gov. Mike Beebe, Jefferson County Clerk Patricia Royal Johnson and the three members of the Jefferson County Election Commission — Trey Ashcraft, Stuart Soffer and Shara Williams.
Redus wants the judge to prohibit the election commission from conducting the mayoral election, or from counting the ballots if the election is held, and to prohibit the commission and the secretary of state from certifying the results.
On Monday, one of Redus’ nine challengers, Debe Hollingsworth, filed legal paperwork seeking to intervene in the case.
In that filing, Hollingsworth said none of the parties named in the lawsuit could protect her interest and the interest of other voters and candidates for the office.
Hollingsworth’s filing said she has been campaigning for more than a year and has expended much time, money, effort, energy and countless resources in her campaign.
"(Hollingsworth’s) interests will be impaired by the disposition of the instant suit because the suit seeks to halt the Nov. 6, 2012, mayoral election," Hollingsworth said in the filing.
Redus referred questions about the Martin and Hollingsworth filings to his lawyer, Gene McKissic.
In addition to Redus and Hollingsworth, seven other candidates have filed and been certified to seek the Pine Bluff mayor’s office: Clarence Davis, Tim Whisenhunt, John James Jr., Peter Daniels Jr., Kent Broughton, Aldermen Thelma Walker and Steven Mays.
Ray King writes for the Pine Bluff Commercial