by Jessica Virden
In his closing remarks during the Caucus meeting of October 11, Mickey Gates said, “I will not judge you on your vote. Your constituency may, but I won’t.” That barely veiled threat on the rest of the House’s re-elections came at the end of a series of absurd and self-absorbed remarks by Mickey Gates, former Representative from House District 22 in Garland County.
Most of us know by now that the House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly to expel Mickey Gates. We know that he was charged with failing to pay over $259,000.00 in state taxes between 2012-2017. Just to put that in perspective, in order to owe that much in taxes to the state, he had to make at least $3.7 million dollars over that six-year period. $3.7 million dollars, with a very small portion coming from his tax-payer funded salary, and he had the audacity not to pay taxes.
Hubris is excessive pride or self-confidence, and Mickey Gates possesses both in spades. To tell the members of the House he will not judge them means that he thinks he has the power to do so.
Gates started off his remarks by thanking his constituents who voted him back into office “even after the State came after [him].” He thanked his family and apologized for what they’ve had to suffer because of his political involvement, stating, “It’s not fair that they have had to suffer because of my fight to make political change.” Mickey, I hate to break it to you, but they’re “suffering” because you didn’t pay your taxes. Though, I’m not sure how much suffering is actually happening when you make almost $4 million dollars in six years.
Gates acknowledged that Oct. 11, 2019, was a historical moment. He did so by pointing out people he thought were on the right and wrong sides of history. Examples of good history included:
- Jesus coming to the Earth to redeem man.
- The signing of the Declaration of Independence (which Gates pointed out was an illegal activity but he appreciated that the Founders recognized that a higher law needed to be taken up that day).
- After mentioning his brother dying in Vietnam and his two sisters, Gates pointed out that March 6, 1960, was a good date in history as it was the day his parents’ favorite child was born, him.
Examples bad history included the Dred Scott decision, the Titanic, the Central High Nine (pausing to ponder what “this Assembly would have thought if one of those National Guard members [refused to follow orders] and allowed those students to exercise their constitutional rights”).
Gates went on to state that if he was removed, none of the members were safe. What would stop 67 Republicans from removing 23 Democrats and then having 100 Republican members? What would happen if 67 males voted to remove 23 females and then having 100 male members? How self-absorbed do you have to be to think that if you removed members different from you, the special elections in those districts would result in members the same as you? (I guess self-absorbed enough to state you were elected by 30,000 Arkansans when only 8,200 actually voted for you or to say state auditors don’t know what it takes to run a business.)
Perhaps the most surreal part of his speech came when Gates started telling the story of Daniel and the lions’ den. After telling of King Darius’s telling Daniel before his night in the lions’ den “may your God who you have served continually rescue you,” Gates said, “I heard some of you had a hard time sleeping last night wrestling with this. I’m so sorry about that.” After some more rambling, Gates stated, “I will not judge you on your vote. Your constituency may, but I won’t. People of integrity will come to different conclusions. Just like Daniel calling out to King Darius, ‘May you live forever.’”
I paused his speech several times and listened to a lot of the sections multiple times. Did he really just say that? Yes, I heard it right. These are apparently the times we live in. Men can break the law and think they are still qualified to serve in public office. They think we still want them to serve. That his not paying taxes was everyone’s fault but his. Basically they are saying the only thing that disqualifies you from serving in a lot of places in Arkansas is putting a “D” beside your name.
Speaker Matthew Shepherd closed asking, “What are our standards? What kind of legislature are we? How do we want the people of Arkansas to view us?”
The answer was overwhelmingly that the House did not want a member to plead no contest to a felony and serving probation to be amongst its ranks. It was a proud day and a step in the right direction. The historic vote was 88-4. The question of what the three (McKenzie, Miller, and Payton), besides Gates, were thinking is for a different day.
Gates says he is going to run again. I hope he doesn’t. I hope he is able to put his pride aside and let someone less felonious take his place. Pride cometh before the fall (I can quote Scripture, too), and Mickey, you have already fallen. Do Arkansas a favor and let this be the last part you play in our State’s history.
If you’d like to watch the full Caucus discussion, you can go here and click on the video of the October 11, 2019, Caucus meeting. https://www.arkansashouse.org/watch-live