Sarah Bunch / Staff photo
Fayetteville voters have only three days to cast early ballots in the Ward 3 runoff election.
Early voting is from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tuesday (22nd), Wednesday (23rd) and Monday (28th) inside the County Clerk’s Office at the Washington County Courthouse.
The courthouse will be closed Thursday and Friday due to the Thanksgiving holiday.
After that, regular polling locations will be open from 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. on runoff election day, Tuesday, Nov. 29.
The Ward 3 runoff race was set after local Realtor and former Planning Commission member Sarah Bunch (see our questionnaire), along with developer and current commission member Tracy Hoskins (did not return our questionnaire), emerged as the two top contenders during the Nov. 8 general election. Unofficial results showed Bunch with 4,183 votes (48 percent) to Hoskins’s 3,119 (36 percent). A third candidate, Benjamin Harrison (see questionnaire), received 1,350 votes (16 percent).
In Arkansas, if a single candidate does not win a majority of the votes, the two people with the most votes will square off in a runoff election unless the leading candidate receives more than 40 percent of the votes and is ahead of the runner-up by 20 percent.
Ward 3 includes several neighborhoods in northeast Fayetteville, including the Rolling Hills Drive corridor, and the Huntingdon, Candlewood and East Oaks subdivisions. Gulley Park, Fiesta Square, Lake Fayetteville, and the Northwest Arkansas Mall are also in Ward 3.
Public Forum Recap
During a public forum last month, Bunch and Hoskins touted their career skills and time spent serving on the Fayetteville Planning Commission.
Bunch, 53, spent six years on the commission where she served two terms as secretary and one term as chair. She said her experience in banking and real estate has taught her how to listen to people in order to analyze problems and come up with solutions.
“The council needs people like that,” Bunch said. “I have worked with a variety of people from the top of the socioeconomic ladder to the bottom. I’m a good listener and I really care about what people have to say.”
Tracy Hoskins / Staff photo
Hoskins, 52, said what the council really needs is a business owner with experience on both sides of the city’s development process. He is serving his seventh year as a member of the Planning Commission, and owns several local businesses, including Maggie Moo’s, Great American Cookies, and Paradigm Development.
“We’ve got plenty of academics here,” Hoskins said. “I think it’s time we had a business person on the council.”
At the forum, one person asked how the candidates would work to close the perceived gap between Fayetteville and other cities in the region when it comes to being friendly to development.
Bunch said while some people like to repeat the claim that Fayetteville is a hard place to do business without presenting any facts, there are people who struggle with the process. She said she’s spoken to developers who’ve gotten halfway through the construction process only to discover that they’d unknowingly violated a rule which led to costly changes and delays to the project.
Hoskins said streamlining the system is the answer. He said the city’s antiquated codes make it difficult to tell the difference between policy and regulation. Certain designs that the city’s goals encourage, Hoskins said, sometimes interfere with ordinances which leads to confusion and the potential for developers to look elsewhere.
Another audience member asked how the candidates would balance the interests of developers with those of the city’s residents.
Both candidates said it’s a tricky subject.
“In seven years on the commission, I have yet to meet anybody that ever came to me and said, ‘I really wish you would find somebody to build something right behind my house,’” Hoskins said.
However, he said, it wouldn’t be much of a balancing act if some of the city’s regulations weren’t so difficult to interpret.
Bunch said collaboration is key. Developers have a right to improve their land, she said, but they shouldn’t be allowed to build something that would create a safety issue or a detriment to the environment.
“It’s a real challenge,” she said. “It takes a lot of skill and you have to be a collaborative person who thinks about things thoroughly and who educates yourself as much as possible.”
Campaign Finance Recap
Bunch raised the most money in Ward 3, according to pre-election finance and expenditure reports filed earlier this month. She reported $8,325 in contributions from 19 donors. She loaned her campaign $500. Her donations include $2,700 each from Steuart and Tom Walton, $850 from various members of the Bunch family and $250 from current Ward 3 Alderman Martin Schoppmeyer. Bunch reported spending $5,529 on advertising and campaign materials before the general election.
Hoskins raised the second-most money in Ward 3, reporting $4,051 in contributions from more than 16 donors. He loaned his campaign $10,820 in cash and credit card payments. Hoskins’ top donations include $500 from Realtor Clinton Bennett, $500 from Realtor Robert Hopmann, $500 from Windstar Real Estate Investments and $350 from Doug Lynch of Citizens Bank. He also received $200 from former Ward 3 Alderman Bobby Ferrell and $100 from State Rep. Charlie Collins. Hoskins reported spending $9,138 on campaign ads and materials.
Only residents who live in Ward 3 are allowed to vote in the Fayetteville runoff election.