First lady Janet Huckabee said the prospect of two persons in the same family serving on the state's Board of Apportionment is not an issue in her race for secretary of state. The three-member board, which draws the legislative district lines after each decennial census, is comprised of the governor, secretary of state and attorney general.
The district lines from the 2000 census have already been drawn. Huckabee said her husband, Gov. Mike Huckabee, will be term limited out of office in 2006 if he is re-elected Nov. 5.
Janet Huckabee's Democratic opponent, Land Commissioner Charlie Daniels, said it could be an issue; the NAACP has filed suit challenging the board's redistricting, and if the suit is successful the district lines will have to be redrawn.
Daniels and the first lady squared off July 27 at the Arkansas Press Association's summer convention in Hot Springs.
Daniels said the suit could be successful and both Huckabees could wind up on the board. "If they should win that will mean you have to go back to the drawing board," Daniels said. "There could possibly be two members of the same family discussing that decision, two out of three, and that could probably be a conflict of interest."
Janet Huckabee responded, "I'd like to see a show of hands of people who think my husband tells me everything to do." The comment brought laughter but no hands.
While she may literally share a bed with the governor, she said, she doesn't think that is any different from two members of the same party who may be figuratively in bed together.
Huckabee said she was confident she and her husband could stay within the bounds of the Freedom of Information Act if the Board of Apportionment required the lines to be redrawn.
In a gubernatorial candidate debate that followed, Gov. Huckabee joked that reporters would be welcome to come into his home to record any conversations he might have with his wife on the issue, comparing his family to the Osbournes, the dysfunctional family of heavy metal rocker Ozzy Osbourne which has its own network television program.
Redistricting was a hot topic in Sharp County last year when Sharp County Judge Harold Crawford proposed a district that would give Sharp County a majority of voters in a single House district. Gov. Mike Huckabee supported Crawford's plan and was the dissenting vote against Secretary of State Sharon Priest and Attorney General Mark Pryor, both democrats, who rejected Crawford's plan.
Both candidates said election reform was a primary concern. Huckabee said she wanted to work toward getting young people between the ages of 18 and 25 more involved in the election process. "It's a population most people ignore," she said.
Daniels agreed young people should be more involved and said he would support making election days school holidays to encourage higher voter turnout.
Huckabee said she would like to see election reform and suggested a hotline be open on election day so violations could be reported immediately. She also said she thought uniform ballots and equipment were a necessity.
The secretary of state oversees elections in Arkansas and is in charge of the physical upkeep of the state Capitol.