Frank Scott, 35, defeated Baker Kurrus in the runoff election for the nonpartisan, open seat becoming the first African-American elected to lead Arkansas’ capital six decades after it was the center of a school desegregation crisis.
Scott served as an adviser to former Gov. Mike Beebe and on the state Highway Commission, and he assembled a coalition that crossed racial and political lines. His supporters included Democratic state legislators from the area and prominent Republicans such as Will Rockefeller, grandson of Arkansas’ first Republican governor since Reconstruction. He also was endorsed by New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, a Democrat who’s considering running for president in 2020.
Scott had said he wasn’t running to be Little Rock’s first elected black mayor , but had sought to bridge some of the city’s biggest divides: race, income and geography.
“If you believe it’s time to unify this city, let’s do it,” Scott told supporters Tuesday night.
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. Some voters Tuesday said they hoped electing Scott would send a message about Little Rock.
“I just thought maybe it would help race relations in our town, which is not very good right now,” said Mary Leckie, a 73-year-old white retiree who voted for Scott.
Scott’s election comes as race remains a dividing line in Little Rock, long after nine black students were escorted past an angry white mob into Little Rock Central High School in 1957. The city’s police department has faced questions about its tactics, including its use of “no-knock” warrants . The state took over the Little Rock School District three years ago, and community leaders have compared the takeover to Gov. Orval Faubus’ efforts to block integration.