State senator won't seek re-election; cites farm, frustration

Published 3 December 2017

State Sen. Bryan King, R-Green Forest, said Friday that he isn't seeking re-election next year.

"Most of it is family reasons. I farm with my family," said King, a poultry and cattle farmer. He also said he's not seeking re-election partly because he's been frustrated with Republican leaders in Little Rock.

King, 49, has served in the state Senate since 2013 and was in the House of Representatives from 2007-13. King represents Senate District 5, which includes Madison County and parts of Carroll, Crawford, Franklin, Johnsonand Sebastian counties.

King's statement that he is not seeking re-election comes six months after state Rep. Bob Ballinger, R-Hindsville, announced that he's running for the Senate District 5 seat. Ballinger, who said he expects to have an opponent next year, said he had heard that King was telling people privately of his plans.

Ballinger, 43, is an attorney and has served in the House since 2013. He represents House District 97, which includes parts of Carroll, Madison and Washington counties. He also is chairman of the House State Agencies and Governmental Affairs Committee.

King said he won't support Ballinger to be his successor because "he is the perfect example of what is wrong in Little Rock." For example, King said Ballinger took credit for helping get new voting equipment for Carroll County when King worked behind the scenes to do that and "I didn't crow about it."

"I don't care who gets credit for it," Ballinger said, referring to the new voting equipment. "I appreciate all the work Sen. King has done. ... If Sen. King gets all the credit and we get our machines, that's wonderful."

Ballinger said he tried to get more funds for new voting equipment throughout the state as chairman of the State Agencies and Governmental Affairs Committee.

Chris Powell, a spokesman for Republican Secretary of State Mark Martin, said, "Our office purchased new equipment for Carroll County at a cost of $88,740.41.

"Sen. King and Rep. Ballinger were not involved," Powell said in a written statement.

Asked whether he would try to round up an opponent for Ballinger for next year's election, King said, "I don't know at this time.

"I think a lot of things could happen between now and the filing period," King said.

When asked if she plans to run for the Senate District 5 seat, State Rep. Charlotte Douglas, R-Alma, said Friday in an email, "I'll be making an announcement after Christmas."

Several months ago, Douglas said she is not seeking re-election to her House District 75 seat, which represents parts of Crawford and Sebastian counties. Douglas, 65, has served in the House since 2013. She is a retired educator.

The filing period for state and federal elections will be Feb. 22-March 1. The primary will be May 22 and the general election will be Nov. 6.

King has been critical of both then-Gov. Mike Beebe, a Democrat, and Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson over state government spending levels. King also has been a staunch opponent of Arkansas' version of Medicaid expansion that was enacted by the 2013 Republican-controlled Legislature and now covers roughly 300,000 low-income Arkansans.

The state is paying for 5 percent of the Medicaid program's cost this year and the federal government covers the rest. Under current federal law, the state's share of the cost of the program will gradually increase and reach 10 percent by 2020. Hutchinson is seeking a waiver from the federal government that would shift about 60,000 people off the program.

In 2013, King sponsored legislation to require voters to present photo identification in order to cast their ballots. That legislation was enacted when the Republican-controlled Legislature overrode Beebe's veto. The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit challenging the law and four of the Arkansas Supreme Court's seven justices ruled in 2014 that the law improperly added a voter qualification to those in the state's constitution.

During this year's regular session, the Legislature enacted a version of the law aimed at surviving a legal challenge. Lawmakers also referred a proposed constitutional amendment to voters in the 2018 general election that would allow the Legislature to enact a law requiring voters to present photo identification.

Metro on 12/02/2017