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Little Rock’s first black mayor faces re-election fight


LITTLE ROCK, Ark. —Frank Scott, the first popularly elected black mayor of Little Rock, hopes to fend off challenges in Tuesday’s election despite criticism of the city’s spiraling homicide rate and Republican-backed efforts to overturn it.

Scott’s re-election bid is one of the few competitive ballot races in Arkansas, where Republicans are heavily favored in the gubernatorial race and other high-profile contests. It could also hand 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 will face each other in a runoff in December.

Scott’s main 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 comes forward as Republicans in races nationwide step up their rhetoric on crime and attempt to portray Democratic mayors as incapable of protecting 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 desegregation of Little Rock Central High School in 1957, 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 administrators chosen for the position by fellow board members, not voters.

Little Rock’s mayoral 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 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.

Scott has been targeted in recent weeks by Republican groups campaigning for the mayor’s ouster. They include a campaign funded by former Governor Mike Huckabee.

Landers criticized Scott’s handling of crime, pointing to the record number of homicides the city has seen this year. He also criticized Scott’s handling of City Hall, including a music and arts festival the mayor had championed that was abruptly canceled after questions were raised about its funding.

Scott has also been criticized for his administration’s lack of transparency, prompting the local prosecutor to express frustration at the number of Freedom of Information Act complaints he has received about the town.

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