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Hutchinson representing Sec. of State in lawsuit

Little Rock, Ark. - The sole Republican on the panel in charge of legislative redistricting announced Tuesday that he's hiring former GOP Congressman Asa Hutchinson's law firm to represent him in a lawsuit that claims new boundaries dilute the black vote in an east Arkansas state Senate district.

Secretary of State Mark Martin said he had hired Hutchinson's firm in the federal lawsuit filed by state Sen. Jack Crumbly and a group of east Arkansas residents. Hutchinson filed papers with the U.S. District Court on Monday to represent Martin's office. Crumbly filed the lawsuit against Martin, Attorney General Dustin McDaniel and Gov. Mike Beebe. The three make up the board in charge of legislative redistricting.

Beebe and McDaniel are Democrats and Martin is a Republican. Hutchinson ran unsuccessfully for governor against Beebe in 2006. Martin, who voted against the redistricting map that is being challenged, said he hired Hutchinson's firm out of "an abundance of caution."

"Many people know that the Board adopted the proposed Senate maps on a split vote," Martin said in a statement released by his office. "The vote is a public record. Since suit has been filed, I do not want to comment any more on the pending litigation, or related issues."

Hutchinson's firm is being paid $200 an hour to work on the case, according to an agreement signed Friday.

Hutchinson did not immediately return calls to his office or his cellphone Tuesday morning.

The lawsuit claims the new boundaries for Crumbly's district are discriminatory because they lower the percentage of voting-age blacks from 58 percent to 53 percent. It asks for an injunction forcing the state to redraw the districts.

A three-judge panel has been named to hear the lawsuit. Beebe and McDaniel this week asked the court to dismiss the lawsuit.

The announcement is the second time a member of the Hutchinson family has been hired by Martin's office. Hutchinson's nephew, former state Rep. Timothy Hutchinson, was hired by Martin's office to coordinate on legislative redistricting last year and his last day was July 29.

Asa Hutchinson, who served three terms in Congress, is a former Homeland Security official and the brother of former U.S. Sen. Tim Hutchinson.

Alex Reed, a spokesman for Martin's office, said Hutchinson's northwest Arkansas law firm was chosen because of its previous experience with redistricting litigation.

Beebe said Martin hadn't told him before Tuesday's announcement that he planned to use Hutchinson's law firm, and said he doesn't know what that means for the lawsuit.

"Asa was a formidable opponent in an election, he's a good lawyer and he's a fighter," he said. "I don't know what his position is on this stuff because I don't know what Mark Martin's position is on this stuff, on the specifics of this district."

The sole Republican on the panel in charge of legislative redistricting announced Tuesday that he's hiring former GOP Congressman Asa Hutchinson's law firm to represent him in a lawsuit that claims new boundaries dilute the black vote in an east Arkansas state Senate district.

Secretary of State Mark Martin said he had hired Hutchinson's firm in the federal lawsuit filed by state Sen. Jack Crumbly and a group of east Arkansas residents. Hutchinson filed papers with the U.S. District Court on Monday to represent Martin's office. Crumbly filed the lawsuit against Martin, Attorney General Dustin McDaniel and Gov. Mike Beebe. The three make up the board in charge of legislative redistricting.

Beebe and McDaniel are Democrats and Martin is a Republican. Hutchinson ran unsuccessfully for governor against Beebe in 2006. Martin, who voted against the redistricting map that is being challenged, said he hired Hutchinson's firm out of "an abundance of caution."

"Many people know that the Board adopted the proposed Senate maps on a split vote," Martin said in a statement released by his office. "The vote is a public record. Since suit has been filed, I do not want to comment any more on the pending litigation, or related issues."

Hutchinson's firm is being paid $200 an hour to work on the case, according to an agreement signed Friday.

Hutchinson did not immediately return calls to his office or his cellphone Tuesday morning.

The lawsuit claims the new boundaries for Crumbly's district are discriminatory because they lower the percentage of voting-age blacks from 58 percent to 53 percent. It asks for an injunction forcing the state to redraw the districts.

A three-judge panel has been named to hear the lawsuit. Beebe and McDaniel this week asked the court to dismiss the lawsuit.

The announcement is the second time a member of the Hutchinson family has been hired by Martin's office. Hutchinson's nephew, former state Rep. Timothy Hutchinson, was hired by Martin's office to coordinate on legislative redistricting last year and his last day was July 29.

Asa Hutchinson, who served three terms in Congress, is a former Homeland Security official and the brother of former U.S. Sen. Tim Hutchinson.

Alex Reed, a spokesman for Martin's office, said Hutchinson's northwest Arkansas law firm was chosen because of its previous experience with redistricting litigation.

Beebe said Martin hadn't told him before Tuesday's announcement that he planned to use Hutchinson's law firm, and said he doesn't know what that means for the lawsuit.

"Asa was a formidable opponent in an election, he's a good lawyer and he's a fighter," he said. "I don't know what his position is on this stuff because I don't know what Mark Martin's position is on this stuff, on the specifics of this district."

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