Steve Landers files to run for mayor of Little Rock
Retired Arkansas car dealership owner Steve Landers formally entered the race for mayor of Little Rock on Friday by filing paperwork to run for office. He becomes the most formidable challenger to incumbent Mayor Frank Scott Jr. who is vying for a second term.
Landers was greeting by a crowd of supporters outside City Hall. He and family members then went inside, through security, and took an elevator to the second floor.
“It’s finally happening and it feels good,” Landers said in an interview with KUAR News before walking into the city clerk’s office. He added that he was “excited to be here and excited to be the next mayor of Little Rock.”
Landers turning in signatures comes almost exactly a year after first confirming an interest in the office. In recent months, he said there have been “long days and long nights and listening to people. I’ve done a lot more listening than I have talking, but now it’s time to talk so I’m ready to go.”
Friday was the first day of a three-week candidate filing period for people interested in running for mayor or city Board of Director positions. Landers said addressing crime and troubles within the Little Rock Police Department are among his top priorities.
“Right now, crime is a very, very serious problem in our city,” he said. “Seven-year-olds getting shot, pregnant women getting shot, old people getting shot in the head, I’m worried about that.”
Crime has surged in the city over the past couple of years, largely coinciding with the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Cities nationwide have seen similar increases.
Landers says since launching his campaign, he has developed a plan to address crime.
“It needs to be data-driven and the high areas of crime, we need to have more police in there just to slow the crime down,” he said. “That doesn’t mean go in there harassing people, it means having a presence, having them sitting around talking to the kids, doing those things that police do.”
Like other departments across the country, it has struggled with a shortage of officers. There have also been public battles with the Fraternal Order of Police and internal sources confirm low morale. Landers suggested he can turn that around.
“We’ve got a great police department,” he said. “They have no confidence in our City Hall. They’ve got confidence in me and I’ll show them the right way and we’ll be a great city.”
Last October, Mayor Scott introduced a crime reduction strategy that he said would be proactive and preventative. He has been holding regular public safety briefings with reporters detailing trends, including an increase in the department’s clearance rate for crimes. Earlier this month Scott said violent crime was down compared to the same time last year, though homicides were up about 30%.
Landers suggested there’s a lack of transparency with the public.
“These people wanna know the truth. They don’t want no skewed numbers,” Landers said. “We’re getting skewed numbers. Right now, today, homicides, these are the city’s numbers, are up 21%, robberies up 41% above last year, which was a horrible year. Last year was terrible and this is up higher than last year.”
When Scott opened his reelection campaign office two weeks ago, he touted growth of the city’s population, the economy and new jobs created. Before becoming mayor, he was a banker.
Landers brings major name recognition to the race from the many car dealerships that bear his name. Decades of doing his own television commercials also make him an easily recognizable figure.
Landers told reporters he is investing his own money in the race.
"I've put a lot in already, I'm gonna put some more in, whatever it takes," Landers said. Asked how much he would be willing to spend, he said, "I don't know the number, but whatever it takes, I will."
Also expected to file for mayor is Greg Henderson, president and chief marketing officer of the food blog Rock City Eats. He previously ran for a city board position two years ago. Glen Schwarz, who has run for multiple officers over the years, has also said he will be a candidate for mayor.