The Winner’s Circle — Joy Ballard, Saline County Collector
Ballard said she chose the Green Party as part of a strategy that left her as the only candidate printed on the ballot in a race full of write-in hopefuls. That has to do with the timing of Chris Villines, who announced in April he was leaving the County Collector’s office to take a new job as executive director of the Association of Arkansas Counties.
That left Democrats and Republicans in Saline County with a problem — their parties had held conventions and chose candidates well before Villines announced he was leaving office. It was too late, then, for those candidates to get on the ballot.
A furious write-in campaign started, but Ballard saw an opportunity — the Green Party had not chosen any candidates for the November elections. The party wasn’t certified to get candidates on ballots until June and didn’t hold its convention until July. Ballard said adopted a strategy — approach the Green Party and see if it would nominate her for the Saline County office.
She said the Green Party was receptive to the idea and did nominate her. The strategy worked out well for Ballard — she was the only candidate listed in the race and she received 19,358 votes while the write-in candidates netted a combined total of 8,602 votes.
Ballard said she’s thrilled at how things worked out as she’s wanted to run for office for quite some time. She was the assistant to County Judge Lanny Fite and has held that position for 10 years. From her vantage point, she noticed something about Saline County politics — incumbents tended to stay in office.
“I’ve wanted to run for political office for the past four years,” she said. “It seems like when someone gets elected, they sit there. … I’d never run against an incumbent.”
Villines stands as a good example of how incumbents to tend to stay in office. He retired during his sixth term as county collector and was no stranger to running unopposed during elections. Ballard said that’ s no surprise — she said Villines did a great job as collector and put together a very solid staff during his time in office.
Those staffers may be comforted to know that Ballard has no major plans to break up the team in that office. She said they run the office well and will be critical to helping her get up to speed on doing her job when she arrives in January.
“My ‘transition team’ will be me,” Ballard quipped.
While Ballard was the only Green Party candidate to win an election in November, the party did receive a lot of support in Saline County and throughout Arkansas.
In Saline County, Green Party candidates piled up an impressive number of votes when they were the only viable challengers to Democrats. In the attorney general’s race, incumbent Democrat Dustin McDaniel got 22,470 votes in Saline County while Green Party challenger Rebekah Kennedy received 9,674 votes — 29.6 percent.
Democrat State Treasurer Martha Shoffner received 19,065 votes while the Green Party’s Bobby Tullis got 12,780 votes — 40.1 percent. Democrat and career politician Charlie Daniels received 20,576 votes in the auditor of state election while Green Party challenger Mary Hughes-Willis received 11,5230 votes — 35.0 percent.
Similar results were posted throughout Arkansas, but Roby Brock of Talk Business said a lot of those votes came from Republicans. They were protest votes, Brock said — if their wasn’t a Republican candidate in a race, some people simply refused to support a Democrat this year.
Still, there’s no denying the Green Party had a strong showing this year — it just might not have been strong enough. Parties can get on Arkansas’ ballot by either collecting 10,000 signatures of registered voters or by receiving at least 3 percent of the vote in the most recent gubernatorial or presidential race.
The Green Party nominated Jim Lendall for governor and he only got two percent of the vote. That could mean the Green Party has to go through the same process it did this year — collecting signatures and getting certified for the 2012 ballot.
Still, the Green Party is arguing its case, claiming that strong showings in races throughout the state ought to be enough for the state to recognize it as a viable party and get listed on the 2012 ballot. They tried that argument after the 2008 elections, filed suit and had their case tossed out of court by a federal judge in July. The scrappy Green Party is still working on appealing that case, so you’d better believe we’ve not heard the last on the certification issue.
This is the first in a series of ‘The Winner’s Circle‘ posts featuring candidates who won their races on Nov. 2. We’ll have more in the weeks to come and you can always access the latest ‘Winner’s Circle’ posts by clicking here.
Benton resident. Rogue journalist. Recovering attorney. Email = Ethan@FirstArkansasNews.net.