Five Democratic candidates are seeking to replace former state Rep. Charles Blake in representing House District 36, which stretches southeast from downtown along the Arkansas River.
Blake resigned in May to serve as chief of staff for Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott Jr. Voters can choose a candidate at a special election on Aug. 6.
KUAR sat down with each of the candidates, and asked the same questions on what they felt were their main issues in the district, and what their plans were for the legislature.
Roderick Talley spoke with KUAR News about his candidacy. You can find selected responses below, and hear the interview with Talley above.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
"I started off as a barber. I became actively engaged in activism efforts after my door was illegally blown down and searched by the Little Rock [Police] Narcotics Department and SWAT team. From that, I just started fighting for not only myself but for so many other residents of Arkansas and out of a mess, I just have somehow created a miracle."
How do you feel your skills, background and experiences qualify you to represent District 36?
"Those experiences made me the more qualified candidate because they’re experiences that not everyone gets a chance to experience. I feel like to be better at handling problems you sometimes have to go through them, and I'm someone who has definitely gone through I think just about every type of situation a person could go through in this lifetime outside of dying, so I feel like those experiences will help me be a voice for the people they don't normally have a voice."
"I feel like my qualifications make me unswayable… I don't think I could be moved by money or power… it’s going to be me representing the people that pushes me forward."
What do you believe are some of the greatest strengths and challenges of your district?
"I think poverty is one of the main issues, and homelessness… and no economic, I don't want to say value but, yeah, I guess in a sense because there's… places to work there, but not everyone in the district is qualified to work at those places in that district."
“I think one of the advantages is there being somewhat of a sense of closeness throughout the community because everybody's kind of dealing with the same issues. So I think everybody in that district for the most part is on one page, or on one accord with the issues that are in that district. So I think that's a good thing because if you could reach some, then they'll be able to reach more and you could fix the problems that you have. But it takes somebody who is willing to listen and put those people’s concerns first."
What are some ideas to face those challenges and to bolster those strengths?
"I think it's sad that you have to take the measure of coming up with a bill of rights for the people that are homeless because as I was at the shelter today, at Jericho Way, and I spoke with some of the people there, they told me their biggest issue was when they're trying to find somewhere to sleep and officers are coming by with bright spotlights running them off away from places. Even when they aren’t causing a problem, they’re just trying to trying to sleep because once the shelters fill up during the day, there's nowhere else to go."
"I think the mayor is supposed to be working on a Citizens Review Board. I think just by having the people in the community more engaged and holding the people that are hired to protect and serve us more accountable, I think it'll create a sense of trust in the community because we're not supposed to be afraid of the ones that are there to serve and protect us, but we are. And from that comes a breaking of homes because people get arrested, people go to jail, and that itself accounts for more and more problems."
How would you accomplish your goals in a majority Republican legislature and coming from a district not in the mainstream of political power?
"By giving the people the power. I feel like Representatives should only be as strong as the people allow them to be. We are put there to represent them, not to basically make any decisions without having any voice from them."
"I don't have a problem with working with any side of a party, whether it be Republicans or whatever. I feel like if the common goal is to please the people, then it shouldn't be a party problem, everything should work on a bipartisan level."
"I think a lot of people that are in office don't get a chance to interact with a person like me who comes from their constituents and can relate to them and show them like, 'Hey this is a problem, this is what's going on,' and even though I got here, look at all the hurdles I had to jump over just to get here that you know nothing about."
What is an issue that you find emerging in Arkansas as a whole that has yet to be addressed in the legislature? What are you planning to do to address this challenge?
"Criminal justice, prison reform, that’s statewide… people take plea deals for things that they didn't do because it seems like the lesser of two evils; either go to trial and take a chance at trial and lose the trial and go to jail and continue sitting in here because I'm too poor to pay to get out of jail. It’s money, you know, money controls this state and innocent lives being put in jail helps make money."
"I feel like marijuana, if this state is going to make money off marijuana then it should be decriminalized, because it affects brown and black people."
"I'm not going to shy away from anything that I'm passionate about. I think that's the problem, a lot of people don't take the initiative of being on the forefront of what the concerns of the people are because they may lose money, they may lose sponsorship from certain people. I don't care about any of that, you know, at the end of the day those giving me money, or if they offer to give money, only account for if they're in my district to vote they only make up one vote. I care about the majority, and the majority are the people, so I'm going to tackle any issue that's a concern of the people."
Are there aspects within the legislature itself that you would like to change or challenge?
"Equal rights amendment… if a woman can do the job of a man and do it better, then why not treat them as an equal? It’s just a gender thing, that’s the only difference. They're able to do everything that we're able to do and they should be compensated and respected in that same sense so that's something that I want to push through. I don't know which legislator in their office didn't come from a mother so I don't understand why they can't be you know empathetic or sympathetic towards women."
What would you say is your signature issue or an issue that needs more attention from lawmakers?
"Because it’s something has been near and dear to me, this situation with noknock search warrants. The 4th Amendment, like, that’s not even something that should be up for debate."
"They put a policy together here locally which… it was a step in the right direction because at least they acknowledged it. But they didn't take into consideration, or even talk to any of the victims about this to try to come up with a better solution. I feel like there needs to be more work done by legislators to hold their own accountable. Prosecutors, they have immunity. Judges for the most part have immunity. There's not… enough checks and balances to hold people here accountable that are making decisions that affect people for the rest of their lives, and I feel like legislators need to get off of their high horses and realize just because these laws you’re incorporating may not affect you and your community, they're affecting others and mostly there impoverished people… it’s continuing to keep the people there at the bottom at the bottom and voiceless."