Little Rock’s first Black mayor faces reelection fight
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Frank Scott, Little Rock’s first popularly elected Black mayor, hopes to fend off challenges in Tuesday’s election despite criticism over the city’s spiraling homicide rate and Republican-backed efforts to unseat him.
Scott’s reelection bid is one of the few competitive races on the ballot in Arkansas, where Republicans are heavily favored in the governor’s race and other top matchups. It could also offer Republicans a rare win in the predominantly Democratic city of Little Rock.
If no one wins at least 40% of the vote in Tuesday’s election, the top two finishers will face off in a runoff election in December.
Scott’s chief rival is Steve Landers, a retired car dealer who had repeatedly criticized the mayor over the city’s homicide rate. Little Rock has reported at least 73 homicides so far this year, surpassing the record set by the city in 1993.
Scott is running as Republicans in races nationwide are stepping up their rhetoric on crime and trying to portray Democratic mayors as unable to protect their cities.
Other candidates running include Greg Henderson, a local businessman and publisher of a food blog, and Glen Schwarz, a longtime marijuana legalization advocate who has repeatedly run for local office. All three challengers are white.
Scott, a former state highway commissioner, was first elected mayor in a runoff election in 2018 — a landmark for a city long known for the 1957 desegregation of Little Rock Central High School, when nine Black students were escorted into the school in front of an angry white mob.
Little Rock previously had two Black mayors, but they were elected city directors chosen for the job by fellow board members and not by voters.
The Little Rock mayor’s race is technically nonpartisan, but Scott is a high-profile Democrat who worked for former Gov. Mike Beebe and endorsed Michael Bloomberg’s unsuccessful bid for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020.
Scott has been targeted in recent weeks by Republican groups that have been campaigning for the mayor’s ouster. They include one campaign funded by former Gov. Mike Huckabee.
Landers has criticized Scott’s handling of crime, pointing to the record number of homicides the city has seen this year. He’s also criticized Scott’s management of City Hall, including a music and arts festival the mayor had championed that was abruptly canceled after questions were raised about its financing.
Scott has also faced criticism about a lack of transparency from his administration that prompted the local prosecutor to vent frustration about the number of Freedom of Information Act complaints he’s received about the city.
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