LITTLE ROCK — Arkansas’ House Democratic Caucus has joined the chorus of voices calling on Lt. Gov. Mark Darr to resign, with the caucus leader saying members will pursue impeachment if Darr is not gone by the start of the fiscal session next month.
“Given the growing number of bipartisan calls for the lieutenant governor to resign, we just feel that, given everything that’s happened, it’s probably best for him to focus on himself and his family and that he wouldn’t really be able to hold that job and do right by the people of Arkansas,” House Minority Leader Greg Leding, D-Fayetteville, said Friday.
Leding said the caucus is not asking Darr to resign immediately or requesting a special session for impeachment, but he said that if Darr is still in office when legislators gather at the Capitol for the session that begins Feb. 10, impeachment “is something that we believe we probably would have to at least try.”
Darr did not immediately respond Friday to a request for comment.
Darr, a Republican, was reprimanded and fined $11,000 by the state Ethics Commission this week for 11 violations of state campaign finance and ethics laws. Gov. Mike Beebe, all five Republican members of Arkansas’ congressional delegation and several Republican and Democratic candidates for office have called on Darr to step down.
The lieutenant governor presides over the Senate during legislative sessions but does not vote except to break ties. His only duties outside of sessions are to step into the office of governor if the governor is unable to complete his term and to serve as acting governor when the governor is out of the state.
Beebe is scheduled to travel to Mobile, Ala., this weekend for the GoDaddy.com Bowl between Arkansas State, his alma mater, and Ball State.
“I think the public’s trust in (Darr) has been shaken so much that they wouldn’t be comfortable with him having to act as governor at this time,” Leding said.
Acting governors typically do not exercise gubernatorial powers, but there have been exceptions. In 1993, then-Senate President Pro Tem Jerry Jewell issued several pardons and commutations while then-Gov. Jim Guy Tucker was out of the state and the office of lieutenant governor was vacant. Last February, while Beebe was traveling Darr signed into law a bill, which Beebe opposed, that exempted from the state Freedom of Information Act the names of people with permits to carry concealed handguns.
Under Article 15 of the state constitution, state officers are subject to impeachment “for high crimes and misdemeanors and gross misconduct in office.”
The House has the power of impeachment. House spokeswoman Cecillea Pond-Mayo said Friday that House Speaker Davy Carter, R-Cabot is willing to begin the impeachment process if a majority of House members indicate they want to pursue it. Republicans hold 51 of the House’s 100 seats.
If the House did vote on impeachment, Leding said he would guess that a two-thirds majority vote would be required, but Pond-Mayo said it appears a simple majority vote would be sufficient. Presumably the vote would be on a resolution to impeach, and a resolution requires 51 votes to pass, she said.
Leding speculated that at least a few Republicans would vote with Democrats for impeachment if Darr continues to refuse calls for his resignation.
House Majority Leader Bruce Westerman, R-Hot Springs, was on a plane Friday and unavailable for comment, a spokesman said.
If the House votes for impeachment, the Senate would conduct a trial, and a two-thirds vote of that body would be needed for a conviction and removal from office. Republicans hold 21 seats in the 35-member Senate.