Three days after vowing he would stay in office, Darr says he no longer wants to subject his family to the “toxic business” of politics
♦Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitcs.com editor
LITTLE ROCK (CFP) — Facing impeachment and pressure for his resignation from within his own Republican Party, Arkansas Lieutenant Governor Mark Darr says he is quitting, effective February 1.
“Politics can be a toxic business,” Darr said in a statement announcing his departure. “I will no longer subject my family to its hard lessons. All my forgiveness to those who play the games and all my respect and appreciation to those who serve with class and humility.”
Darr did not identify who he meant by “those who play the games.” However, he made a point in his statement that he was submitting his resignation “to the people of Arkansas, not an elected official.”
That was possibly an oblique reference to the Natural State’s Democratic Governor Mike Beebe, who had called on Darr to step down. The governor learned about Darr’s resignation from local media.
Beebe’s office later released a statement saying Darr’s decision to quit “is the best decision for the state of Arkansas and for Lieutenant Governor Darr.”
Darr said he had notified House Speaker Davy Carter and Senate President Pro-Tempore Michael Lamoureaux of his plans to step aside.
State law calls for a special election to be held to fill the remaining 11 months of Darr’s term. However, legislators are considering waiving that election, as was done in 2006 when then-Lieutenant Governor Win Rockefeller died in office.
The State Ethics Commission fined Darr $11,000 for violations relating to his 2010 campaign and during his time as lieutenant governor.
In its report, the commission said Darr made personal use of more than $31,000 in campaign funds and charged more than $3,500 of personal expenses on a state-issued credit card.
He was also cited for receiving improper reimbursement for nearly $3,600 in travel expenses from his home in Springdale to his office in Little Rock. The commission also sanctioned him for misreporting money he raised after the election to pay off loans he made to the campaign.
Darr conceded that he made mistakes and apologized. But in a lengthy defense issued January 7, he insisted there was “no malicious intentional disregard of the law” on his part.
He said he was entitled to accept the contributions to pay off the campaign debt and that he actually saved the state money by seeking mileage reimbursement for use of his personal vehicle, rather than having the Arkansas State Police carry him around.
After the report was issued, Beebe and the state’s entire congressional delegation — including five Republicans — called for his resignation. After a defiant Darr said he would not resign, Democrats in the state legislature said they would seek his impeachment.
Republican legislative leaders ratched up the pressure by saying they would call a special session to consider impeachment, rather than handling it in a budget session scheduled to begin in February. Darr could have been forced to pay the cost of the special session if he were removed.
Darr, 40, was a little-known restauranteur with no political experience when he won the lieutenant governorship in 2010, a campaign he based partially on his opposition to Obamacare.
He abandoned a campaign for the open 4th District U.S. House seat after his ethics problems came to light last summer.