Lt. Governor Candidates Debate Policy Influence, Role's Effectiveness

Jul 11, 2014

The lead candidates for Arkansas Lieutenant Governor are emphasizing job creation and economic development in their hoped-for roles as policy advocates in the legislature. Their third party challenger, meanwhile, says the office grossly overestimates its own worth and use of taxpayer dollars.

Democratic Candidate John Burkhalter, Republican candidate Tim Griffin and Libertarian Christopher Olson gathered for a debate held by the Arkansas Press Association on Friday. Burkhalter, who previously lead the state Highway and Transportation Department , said he opposes eliminating the office which is next in line if the Governor is not able to perform his or her role.

“I don’t believe that someone should ascend to become governor…because he was a state representative or he was a senator who has only been elected by a small population of the state of Arkansas,” he said, referring to the complications which may arise if a new line of ascendancy were established by eliminating the Lt. governor role.

Libertarian Candidate Christopher Olson, a mental health professional, said that if the office cannot be eliminated, he’d prefer the office to significantly reduce its size and budget.

“I think that’s appropriate for an office like that. For someone to answer the phone and not have four highly paid staff members. I don’t believe the office of Lieutenant Governor exists to feed the ego of a politician eager to rise to a higher office,” Olson said.

Griffin, who represents the Arkansas’s Second District in the U.S. House of Representatives, said he sees the Lieutenant Governor as someone who can make a major push for new policies in the state legislature.

“If you look at the last two lieutenant governors, they ran on a particular policy platform and both of them worked to get that into law,” said Griffin, telecommunicating from Washington, D.C. via Skype. Griffin and  Burkhalter emphasized their legislative connections and business acumen as characteristics that might help them influence the legislature.

The legacy and effectiveness of the office has been called into questioned in recent months after former Lieutenant Governor Mark Darr resigned earlier this year over ethics violations.