LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas — The state's sole Green Party lawmaker filed for re-election as a Democrat on Wednesday, saying he had changed since the Democratic Party sued to keep him off the ballot and wanted to return to the political party with which he has long identified.
Rep. Fred Smith, a former Harlem Globetrotter, was elected as a Democrat in 2010 but resigned after a judge found him guilty of a felony theft charge. A judge later dismissed the case and he tried to run for office again in 2012 as a Democrat, but the Arkansas Democratic Party sued to keep him off the ticket. He then filed as a Green Party candidate and won.
Smith submitted his official paperwork for re-election as a Democrat on Wednesday for House District 50 in eastern Arkansas. He told reporters that he had changed as a person since the lawsuit.
"It's an honor to be back here, because of all the things that I went through," he said. "I have changed, I have transformed spiritually... I am showing the state of Arkansas that I've always been a Democrat."
State Democratic Party spokesman Lizzy Price said the party learned of Smith's intentions when he filed his paperwork.
"It's my understanding that he is eligible to run, and he has paid the filing fee," Price said. "We'll see if he's the only candidate in that race... We don't condone things that he has done in the past, but he has filed as a Democrat and he is legally able to do so at this point. And unless that changes, then he will be in the Democratic primary."
No other Democrats have filed yet for the office. The filing period ends Monday, and the primary is scheduled for May 20.
Arkansas Green Party Chairman Mark Swaney said he was not surprised Smith was seeking the Democrat Party's nomination, noting that Smith did not attend the Green Party's nomination convention. Swaney said Green Party officials have tried to contact Smith about legislation they were interested in since he was elected to the House two years ago, but that their calls went unanswered from Smith.
"The simplest thing to say is that we've not had any contact with Fred," Swaney said. "We've tried to talk to him after he was elected... We don't have any problem with him."
Smith said Wednesday that he was thankful for the Green Party and their support since he was elected.
"I want to thank the Green Party," Smith said. "They gave me a second opportunity and a second chance."
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