Democratic gubernatorial candidate says governor "lacks leadership" in corruption scandal

Arkansas democratic gubernatorial candidate Jared Henderson said Governor Asa Hutchinson has displayed a lack of leadership when it comes to the fallout from the state's ongoing corruption scandal. (Photo: KATV)

Jared Henderson, the Arkansas democrat seeking the state's highest office, seized the moment to discuss corruption on the first day of sentencing in a kickback scheme involving two former state legislators.

Henderson held a press conference on Wednesday to take Governor Hutchinson "to task" on the state's ongoing corruption issues involving at last count seven state legislators that have been indicted and some already convicted on corruption charges while Hutchinson has been in office.

"I can imagine the governor's office would say that these instances I'm citing are not his fault, and that might be true," said Henderson. "But in my philosophy of leadership, it is still your responsibility to take action when you see wrong things happen."

Laying out a seven-point plan to address corruption in the Natural State, Henderson said he doesn't believe the governor has done enough to address the issue that's come to a head during his tenure. The democrat's ideas included denying public pension to convicted legislators, strengthening the Arkansas Ethics Commission, in addition to lengthening the ban on legislators becoming lobbyists.

At a press conference held to tout the efforts of the state legislature to help reduce regulatory overreach, Hutchinson said he has put forth ideas to help combat corruption in Arkansas.

"I think it's important that we not play politics with this, but we look forward to the future as to how we can take concrete steps," said Hutchinson, addressing reporters after his press conference. "I have presented some very concrete steps that I think will be beneficial in the future."

Hutchinson stressed the need for more transparency in government and agreed with Henderson's idea that more power needs to be given to the state ethics commission.

While listing off the various legislators involved in the recent corruption scandals, Henderson made sure to mention the governor's nephew and his own indictment last week. He called the Friday before the Labor Day weekend announcement of now resigned Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson's federal indictment suspect.

The governor has already released a statement in support of his nephew's decision to resign from office following his indictment, but offered his own criticism of Henderson in response to the scandal.

"Everybody has to answer for themselves and their own conduct," said Gov. Hutchinson. "Mr. Henderson certainly needs to answer for the role that he played in hiring a lobbyist that's been convicted as he represented Teach for America, that put in jeopardy really $3 million of taxpayer's money."

Henderson responded to that comment, saying to reporters that he has nothing to hide in regard to his involvement with now convicted lobbyist Rusty Cranford.

"In terms of Rusty Cranford, I've answered every question by the press that's ever been put in front of me," said Henderson. "We didn't do a thing wrong. I am proud of the work at Teach for America - we got thousands of kids good teachers that wouldn't have had them otherwise."

Governor Hutchinson said he thought the sentence given to disgraced state senator Jon Woods was appropriate given the fact he was a public official who violated the public's trust.

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