Skip to comments.Arkansas - Willett wins state Democratic Party chairmanship
Posted on 02/05/2005 5:34:33 PM PST by HAL9000
LITTLE ROCK (AP) -- Longtime political operative Jason Willett of Jonesboro won his bid Saturday to unseat Arkansas Democratic Party chairman Ron Oliver.
The vote by secret ballot at a meeting of the party's state committee was Willett 237, Oliver 147. The two-year term began Saturday, according to a party spokesman.
"Our party is at a crossroads," Willett said in addressing the group. "We must reorganize and rebuild. Our legislators must play a more vital role in our party or we're not going to win back the governorship."
Since Arkansas became a state in 1836, all of its governors have been Democrats, except for five Republican governors, including Gov. Mike Huckabee; one Independent Democrat and one Unionist Democrat.
Willett has been district director for U.S. Rep. Marion Berry for the last six years. He was political director for U.S. Sen. Blanche Lincoln's 1998 campaign and was on her U.S. House staff before that.
Oliver, of North Little Rock, has been with the party for 35 years and was seeking a third term as party chairman.
In his speech, he said he was the first chairman in 34 years under which the party has not suffered a net loss of legislative seats. In the South, he said, "Arkansas is a shining beacon for the Democrats."
Willett declared his candidacy in September. While campaigning, he said Oliver placed too much power in a few top-level people. He said he wanted to include more people in the party's decision-making process, improve communication between the party offices and elected officials and create a more effective party strategy.
Oliver said Willett's criticisms were "a figment of Jason's imagination."
In this current legislative session, some Democrats have lashed out at Oliver, complaining that he didn't make clear his opposition to a Republican-endorsed bill to change Arkansas' primary system.
In other races Saturday, Karla Bradley was elected first vice-chair over Robbyn Tumey; Terri Hollingsworth won second vice-chair over John Wilkerson. Drew Smith of Fayetteville defeated Daniel Colclasure of Conway for the treasurer's post.
I think Oliver was Clinton's guy - but he was also connected to David Hale somehow. In any case, he's out now.