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Democrat running for Arkansas attorney general calls for no parole for sex offenders

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LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas — Democratic Attorney General hopeful Nate Steel on Thursday proposed that sex offenders no longer be eligible for parole and that the state require them to carry designated driver's licenses.

Steel, a state representative from Nashville, proposed the new sex offender restrictions as part of a series of measures he said he'd push if elected attorney general. Steel is running against Republican nominee Leslie Rutledge, who responded Thursday by questioning Steel's record on measures targeting sex offenders.

Steel said he'd ask the Legislature to end parole eligibility for all sex offenders. He also proposed requiring all sex offenders to have driver's licenses that would prominently label them as offenders, a move he said would make it easier for police to identify them.

"I think the state as a whole should make this state the worst place to be convicted if you're a sex offender," Steel said in a news conference at his campaign headquarters. "That's what I intend to do on Day One."

Rutledge accused Steel of being inconsistent on the issue, pointing to him voting "present" on a bill approved last year that banned Level 3 and Level 4 sex offenders from being at a swimming area or children's playground located within a state park. The measure was signed into law by Gov. Mike Beebe.

PHOTO: Democratic Rep. Nate Steel, candidate for Arkansas attorney general, speaks at a Little Rock, Ark., news conference Thursday, Aug. 21, 2014. (AP Photo/Danny Johnston)
Democratic Rep. Nate Steel, candidate for Arkansas attorney general, speaks at a Little Rock, Ark., news conference Thursday, Aug. 21, 2014. (AP Photo/Danny Johnston)

"He had the opportunity to protect children then, and he failed to do so," Rutledge said.

Steel said he voted present because of concerns about the measure that were raised by officials with the Crater of Diamonds State Park, which is located in his district, but said he couldn't remember what the concerns were. He said he wasn't opposed to the measure, and accused Rutledge of distorting his record by focusing on one vote.

"I've got a clear record on these issues, and to pull one bill out of thousands to say it undermines anything else is a nonissue," Steel said.

Other proposals in Steel's legislative package include increased funding for drug courts, though he stopped short of naming a specific amount and said a study would need to be conducted to determine how much more money they need. He also proposed establishing a veteran's advocacy unit in the AG's office and using updated technology to find parents who are not paying child support.

Steel and Rutledge are running to succeed Democratic Attorney General Dustin McDaniel, who is barred by term limits from seeking re-election.


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