Let’s face facts. It certainly looks like State Sen. Jason Rapert and Linda Tyler don’t like each other. That much was clear to me when I sat near both of them nearly two years ago as the Faulkner County Election Commission dealt with districting and mapping problems prior to the 2012 general election. The handshake they gave each other was half-hearted at best, and I’m sure it would have been non-existent if there weren’t other people in the room.
So it actually didn’t surprise me when Rapert blocked the appointment of Linda Tyler to the State Parole Board. I mean, it certainly reeks of high school politics, but part of being in power is being able to toy with your enemies. Isn’t that right?
Except that when questioned by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Rapert said that the objection wasn’t personal nor political. He said his discussions with Faulkner County Sheriff Andy Shock, Conway Police Chief A.J. Gary and Faulkner County Prosecuting Attorney Cody Hiland led him to strike down Gov. Mike Beebe’s nominee and Rapert’s not-so-good friend, Tyler.
Although Gary nor Hiland spoke with the newspaper about their discussion with Rapert, Shock went on the record, agreeing with the senator about Tyler’s qualifications and her sponsorship of Act 570 in 2011, which apparently was the deal breaker for her nomination. It was a piece of legislation that Shock called “the biggest joke that ever made it through the Legislature,” although an amended version was voted for by all 35 senators, including Rapert.
At least this time around, Rapert looked at a piece of legislation, using it as impetus to reject a nominee, even if he is shown to have approved the final version of that legislation. Last year, he blocked the nomination of Kathryn Spinks to the state Occupational Therapy Examining Committee without much of an explanation, other than the knowledge that Spinks had most likely supported Tyler in the 2012 race.
Some people have cried out that this is a war on women by Rapert, but I can’t really subscribe to that, especially with this small of a sample size. No, a logical person wouldn’t point to gender. But they could point to a personal dislike, and they may not be wrong.
Let’s also remember this: Tyler’s quotes in response to Rapert’s action don’t paint her as a person who was blindsided by this. From her tone, she doesn’t seem to like Rapert either.
With the knowledge that he may have had an opponent in the 2014 General Election from local attorney Frank Shaw, the two proceeded to wage in a war of words in the Faulkner County courthouse where a quorum court meeting was being held. Shaw eventually filed for state Rep. and will run against David Meeks, but it only took the slightest whiff of a challenge from Shaw, a friend from church, to rile Rapert up.
This is important because of the simple fact that in the past 11 years, only three nominees by a governor have been blocked by senators in their own district, two of them have been by Rapert. It makes you wonder if you would want to become a political enemy of Rapert, because he may use any influence he can to keep you from your post.
I wish we could show these nominations the way they do in March Madness. They would throw up two teams, their wins, losses and other key statistics, and analysts would determine who has the better resume. Sometimes a Dayton would look like a better team than a Kentucky.
If we did that in this instance, I wonder what the outcome would be. If Rapert were able to look at the qualifications without the name “Linda Tyler” attached to them, what decision would he make?
(Ricky Duke is the editor of the Log Cabin. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)