CCN quizzes contested primary candidates

Friday, May 18, 2012
Carroll County poll workers attend training Thursday at the Berryville Community Center. Video of the candidates in this article, taken at the GOP candidates forum a few weeks ago, is at Eddie Keever / Carroll County News

BERRYVILLE -- As early voting continues at both Carroll County Courthouses today, tomorrow and Monday, election workers are readying polling sites in advance of Tuesday's primary election day, and voters are getting down to business when it comes to deciding how to cast their ballots.

To assist readers who haven't yet decided or had the opportunity to get to know the candidates, Carroll County News sent every candidate in a contested race on the ballot a brief questionnaire; the candidates' responses are below. The candidates' responses were in some cases shortened for space considerations, except for the quotations, which were left completely as they were sent to the newspaper by the candidates themselves.

Early voting is being conducted today, Friday, May 18 till 6 p.m.; on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; and on Monday, May 21 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Election Day voting on Tuesday, May 22 will take place at all county regular polling sites from 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.

Results from early and absentee voting will be tallied beginning at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, May 22, and results from Election Day voting will be tallied after polls close that day.

Contested races to be decided on May 22 include the GOP primary races for state House of Representatives District 97 and for state Senate District 5. Also to be decided in the May 22 voting are the nonpartisan general election judicial races for Arkansas Court of Appeals District 3, Position 2 and Arkansas Supreme Court Position 4.

There are no contested Democratic races in the primary this year.

Following are the questions and responses from the candidates in the contested races listed above. (Neither candidate in the Arkansas Supreme Court race responded to Carroll County News' questions or phone messages, so those responses are missing.)

State House, District 97

Bob Ballinger

Age: 38

Hometown: Hindsville

Education: Earned a bachelor's degree in Social Studies Education at Northeastern State University (Tahlequah, Okla.) and law degree from University of Arkansas School of Law.

Professional/work background: I have been a public school teacher, run a small business and practiced law.

Political background: Worked with a couple of campaigns, but never held a public office.

Reasons for running: "The (state) House of Representatives is the people's house, as intended by our founders, and those elected to the House are servants of the electorate, leaving no room for self-aggrandizement or self-promotion. Self-interests must be set aside in favor of the interests of the people of Arkansas and the people of District 97. Government's only Constitutional function is to protect and serve. Standing on these conservative principles yields to a belief in state independence and self-government, private property rights, limited and accountable government, lower taxation, and the protection of liberty. Each of these, I desire to restore if given the opportunity."

Priorities and goals once in office, if elected: "Our state government may be vested with the opportunity to make needed changes to the tax structure in Arkansas which will allow more money to stay in the hands of families and be put to work in our economy. We may also be able to loosen restrictions on business that prevents many new business startups and hinders growth of existing business. I hope for our state to make a fundamental change in philosophy that recognizes the protection of individual rights as the only valid function of Government, which would include the protection of the right to life of unborn children."

Jeremy Miller

Age: 34

Hometown: Clifty

Education: Huntsville High School (class of 1996), Arkansas State University (class of 2000), earned bachelor's degree in Ag Business.

Professional/work background: Cattle farmer and owner/operator of Clifty General Store.

Political background: None.

Reasons for running: "I feel like my life experiences and community involvements have given me a great perspective to represent this district. I have volunteered several years with Farm Bureau to protect family farms. This has allowed me to understand the legislative process on a first hand basis. I also have an Ag Business degree and have business experience from an early age starting a custom hay baling business at the age of 18. At the age of 23, we purchased a foreclosed convenience store in my hometown. I feel this has given me insight into how we can improve the business environment."

Priorities and goals once in office, if elected: "Move Arkansas forward in business environment and job creation using common sense approaches. This can be done by copying what leading states are doing with regulation and tax reform. Protect farming and the rural way of life with firsthand experience by continuing to be a voice for a diminishing population. Improve the quality of education through more local control. Having a wife as a teacher has allowed me to see some of the senseless federal and state mandates. We need to talk to administrators and teachers and set rules from the ground up not from the top down.

State Senate District 5

Bill Coleman

Age: 61

Hometown: Mountainburg

Education: Mountainburg High School (class of 1968); University of Arkansas, 1968-71.

Professional/work background: Co-owner Coleman Butane Gas Co. for 37 years, sold it in 2010; owner of a cattle farm; former member of Board of Directors at 1st National Bank of Crawford County.

Reasons for running: "I have years of business experience dealing with thousands of customers and many employees. I have operated a cattle farm for as long. I also have a lifetime of community service. I was born in this district and have had the opportunity to work and raise our family here. I want the children of our district to have the same opportunities I have had. Our businesses and farms need state government working for them, not against them. I want to use my experiences to serve our area in the state senate and improve the districts quality of life."

Priorities and goals once in office, if elected: "Jobs and the economy are the number one issue in our area. Small business growth and expansion is the way to create new jobs and improve the economy within our district. Reducing government interference and excessive taxation will help remove the uncertainty our businesses are feeling. We must continue to improve education. Our children must be well trained to attract good, well paying jobs to our area. We live in one of the more beautiful areas in the country. Tourism opportunities are countless and we must make tourism promotion a high priority, creating many jobs along the way."

Bryan King

Age: 43

Hometown: Berryville

Education: University of Arkansas alumni, Animal Science major, Business minor.

Professional/work background: Poultry/cattle farmer.

Political background: Elected to Arkansas House of Representatives in 2006, 2008, and 2010.

Reasons for running: "I enjoy serving the people of my district. I have traveled all parts of the district and have met thousands of people. This district is very rural which helps me feel a real connection to the people. My experience as a farmer for the past twenty years has helped me prepare for the job of being State Senator. My experience in the Legislature has helped me a tremendous amount to understand the State's budget. I have worked on issues important to Northwest and Western Arkansas which is what this district is comprised of."

Priorities and goals once in office, if elected: "The number one issue is jobs and the economy. State spending has been increasing while farmers, businesses and families have been cutting back. Cutting back and eliminating wasteful spending could allow the state to implement tax relief. Reducing the income and capital gains tax will allow our State to be more competitive in attracting new jobs and investment. Passing a voter id requirement to vote will help reduce voter fraud and restore confidence in the integrity of elections. I will continue to defend our schools when bureaucrats in Little Rock treat our schools unfairly."

Arkansas Court of Appeals, District 3 Pos. 2

Niki Cung

Age: 40

Hometown: Fayetteville, since 1993.

Education: Graduated high school from Fort Smith Northside. Graduated from University of Arkansas School of Law in 1996. Is the first Vietnamese-American to be licensed to practice law in the state of Arkansas.

Professional/work background: Is currently a partner at Kutak Rock LLP law firm in Fayetteville; the firm is based out of Omaha, Nebraska, with 17 offices and 440 lawyers across the country. Her practice consists of insurance defense, commercial litigation, and appellate work. She has handled appeals before the Arkansas Supreme Court, the Arkansas Court of Appeals, and the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Political background: "I am not a politician. I don't want to be a politician. I'm a lawyer who wants to serve my community, so I am running for judge, a position for which I am qualified.

Reasons for running for office: "I believe that I am a perfect example of the American dream. I am an immigrant. I was born in Vietnam; my family immigrated to the United States in 1975. I had the opportunity to attend our public school system, followed by college and law school. Through hard work and playing by the rules, I have a successful legal practice and now want to serve the state of Arkansas, which has been very good to me and my family. My husband's 22 years of service to our country in the military has inspired me to more fully serve."

Priorities and goals once in office, if elected: "My obligation as a judge would be to apply and uphold the law. I will not legislate from the bench. It is up to our elected legislators, state and federal, to see that our views are represented in the laws that they introduce and pass. If elected, one of the initiatives that I would like to explore is electronic filing of appellate briefs. Currently, the Court Rules require the filing of 18 copies of an appellate brief. I believe electronic filing would serve judicial economy and efficiency and save litigants time and money."

Kenneth Hixson

Age: 56

Hometown: Fayetteville, since 1979.

Education: Graduated Paris High School. Earned bachelor's in mathematics in 1978 from University of Central Arkansas. Graduated from University of Arkansas School of Law in 1982.

Professional/work background: First legal position (early '80s) was in insurance defense law with Jones & Segers firm in Fayetteville, which became Jones & Hixson a few years later when he was named a partner. In 1994, left private practice and became general counsel for P.A.M. Transportation Services in Tontitown. Returned to private practice in 2004, as a sole practitioner at his own firm. Has "considerable experience" in business and commercial transactions, commercial litigation, real estate law, probate law and family law matters. Has taught ethics and evidence courses for Continuing Legal Education classes.

Political background: None.

Reasons for running for office: "I believe that I have something to give back to the legal profession and to the State. I have been blessed with a successful law practice for 30 years. The Court of Appeals hears cases including family law, civil trials, workers compensation and unemployment claims. I have considerable experience in all of these areas. If elected, I will hit the ground running -- there will be no learning curve. My promise is that I will call it like I see it. My experience has given me the wisdom and temperament to listen impartially and fairly to both sides of an issue and cut through the fog and get to the bottom line -- the search for the truth."

Priorities and goals once in office, if elected: "I have two concerns with the appellate system. My first concern is that it appears that the appellate courts often attempt to dodge some of the tough legal issues and instead decide cases on technicalities. I call that "form over substance." I want to reduce the number of decisions based on technicalities and get to the bottom line of the real disputes -- again, a search for the truth. My second concern is that it has become popular for courts to legislate from the bench. We call that judicial activism. I will not legislate from the bench."

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