Can­di­date in runoff cam­paigns to be 1st black mayor of cap­i­tal

San Francisco Chronicle (Sunday) - - FROM THE COVER - By An­drew DeMillo An­drew DeMillo is an As­so­ci­ated Press writer.

LIT­TLE ROCK, Ark. — Six decades af­ter nine black stu­dents were es­corted past an an­gry white mob into Lit­tle Rock Cen­tral High School, the city at the cen­ter of the de­seg­re­ga­tion cri­sis may be on the verge of elect­ing its first African Amer­i­can mayor.

Frank Scott, the 35-year-old bank­ing ex­ec­u­tive who may break that bar­rier, could win by bridging some of the big­gest rifts in Arkansas’ cap­i­tal: race, in­come and ge­og­ra­phy. He’s a na­tive of one of Lit­tle Rock’s poorer ar­eas who has risen in dis­ci­plines — pol­i­tics and fi­nance — dom­i­nated by white men.

Race is hard to es­cape in the cam­paign for mayor in Arkansas’ cap­i­tal, where divisions linger long af­ter the school’s 1957 de­seg­re­ga­tion. The city’s po­lice depart­ment has faced ques­tions about its tac­tics. The pre­dom­i­nantly black Lit­tle Rock School Dis­trict has been un­der state con­trol for the past three years, and com­mu­nity lead­ers have com­pared the takeover to Gov. Or­val Faubus’ ef­forts to block in­te­gra­tion.

Black lead­ers in the city view the runoff on Tues­day as a chance for Lit­tle Rock to ad­dress some of its big­gest divisions.

“Race is a ma­jor di­vid­ing line in this city. That’s one but the other ma­jor di­vid­ing line in this city is eco­nom­ics,” said Joyce El­liott, a Demo­cratic state se­na­tor who’s back­ing Scott’s bid. “We are not do­ing a good job of hav­ing a con­ver­sa­tion or a plan that in­volve all of us that we carry out.”

If Scott is elected, he’d be the high­est-pro­file black of­fi­cial in a state that hasn’t elected an African Amer­i­can to Con­gress or statewide of­fice since Re­con­struc­tion. Lit­tle Rock has had two black may­ors, but they were elected city di­rec­tors cho­sen for the job by fel­low board mem­bers and not by vot­ers. Scott won a plu­ral­ity of votes in a five-man race in Novem­ber with 37 per­cent of the vote, a few per­cent­age points shy of the 40 per­cent needed to win the of­fice out­right.

He’s run­ning against Baker Kur­rus, a white at­tor­ney and busi­ness­man who was ap­pointed as the school dis­trict’s su­per­in­ten­dent af­ter the state takeover.

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