Governor, state legislators hoping to avoid special election to replace Darr

LITTLE ROCK (KATV) - Governor Mike Beebe's office is scrambling to figure out what's next for the lieutenant governor's position. This comes on the heels of Lt. Gov. Mark Darr announcing his resignation via press release last Friday.

According to state law Beebe has 150 days from the date of resignation to schedule a special election to replace a vacated lieutenant governor's seat. Darr's press release stated his last day would be on February 1st. But Beebe's office is still trying to figure out if Darr actually technically resigned.

"We actually need to figure out the present even before we figure out the future, because we're not sure if Lieutenant Governor Darr's news release counts as a formal resignation," said Matt DeCample, director of communications for Gov. Beebe.

That's because Darr's news release made it clear he was submitting his resignation to the people of Arkansas and not to an elected official - which he's supposed to do.

Regardless of the validity of Darr's resignation, Beebe believes he most likely will have to call a special election.

"Preliminary research suggests I may not have any choice," said Beebe during an interview at the annual Coon Supper on Saturday. "It may be mandatory that you have to call a special election."

Beebe and state legislators are concerned the state would have to spend an exorbitant amount of money on a statewide election, even when the position is up for reelection in November in the general election.

Alex Reed, spokesperson for the Secretary of State's office said a special election for filling the lieutenant governor's position could run upwards of $3.7 million. The governor's office is open to ideas to avoid that cost.

"Looking for ways if it is changing the law, if it is taking other steps to try and come up with something that follows the law but is the best solution for the state," said DeCample.

When legislators convene on February 10th for the fiscal session, a change in the law is something many are considering. The potential change would make filling vacated seats wait until the general election when those seats are vacated in election years.

But if the special election must happen, republicans and democrats are keeping tight lipped about potential candidates and both parties say they don't plan on announcing candidates until a special election is called.

As for the current candidates for lieutenant governor running in November, both GOP candidates - Rep. Andy Mayberry and Rep. Charlie Collins won't be eligible to run in a special election because state law prevents sitting legislators from running in special elections.

Democratic candidate John Burkhalter released a statement on Monday saying, "I am running for Lieutenant Governor and I'm ready to dedicate myself full time to help our state create jobs, expand our middle class and provide a better education for our children, whenever the election might be."