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Mark Darr (1973–)

Mark Darr served as lieutenant governor of Arkansas from 2011 to 2014. Elected as part of a wave of political newcomers in 2010, he quickly became embroiled in a series of investigations relating to alleged ethics violations. In January 2014, with almost a year left in his term, Darr resigned his office.

Mark Darr was born on July 3, 1973, in Fort Smith (Sebastian County), the youngest of five children born to the Reverend Johnnie Darr, who was a Southern Baptist minister, and his wife, Patsy Darr. Darr grew up in Mansfield (Sebastian and Scott counties), graduating from Mansfield High School in 1991. In 1997, he earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Ouachita Baptist University (OBU) in Arkadelphia (Clark County). Darr’s wife, Kimberly, became an elementary school music teacher at Shiloh Christian School in Springdale (Washington and Benton counties); the couple has a son and a daughter.

Darr was a licensed insurance agent as well as the owner of the MAD Pizza Company in Rogers (Benton County) at the time of his election in 2010. Only thirty-seven years old, he was one of a number of young Republicans who ran for office, fueled by dissatisfaction with the early efforts of the administration of President Barack Obama. While Democrat Mike Beebe was easily reelected governor, the Republicans made major inroads into the previously overwhelming Democratic majorities in the Arkansas House and Senate. As part of this Republican wave, Darr defeated Democrat Shane Broadway by a 51.1–48.9 percent margin to win the lieutenant governor’s office.

Many of the responsibilities of the lieutenant governor are ceremonial, but Darr regularly presided over the Senate, and he was actively involved in securing passage of the Arkansas Financial Transparency Act, a law that created an “online checkbook” for the state. Darr was actively involved with the National Lieutenant Governors Association (NLGA), serving on both the Executive Committee and the Policy Resolutions Committee. In addition, the NLGA selected Darr as a representative to the 110th China Import and Export Fair.

Darr had planned to run for Congress in the Fourth District, moving back to his old hometown of Mansfield, located within the district, to strengthen his effort. However, after announcing his candidacy on August 12, 2013, he shut down his campaign barely two weeks later amidst accusations of misconduct following an investigation by blogger and lawyer Matt Campbell of Blue Hog Report. Since early in his tenure, Darr had been dogged by charges of misuse of campaign and office funds, and the allegations led to an investigation by the Arkansas Ethics Commission. Following a report by the commission, in January 2013 Darr acknowledged eleven violations and agreed to pay $1,000 per violation. The most egregious of the charges was that he had spent around $31,500 of campaign funds for personal use. In addition, he acknowledged that there had been more than $12,000 of improper office expenses. He nevertheless sought to minimize the situation, calling the violations “oversights” while denying that he had personally profited from any of the actions. While he did end his congressional campaign, he initially rebuffed calls for his resignation, despite threats by legislators of impeachment proceedings. However, as the call for his resignation increased, and the first steps in the impeachment process began in the legislature, Darr backed down. On January 10, 2014, he announced that he would resign effective February 1, 2014.

Darr struggled to find a new job. His pizza business had closed, and he unsuccessfully pursued a couple of different positions in public relations with the University of Arkansas System. In July 2014, he announced that he had taken a job with an auto dealership, Crain Hyundai of Springdale. However, his economic problems continued, and in July 2015, Darr and his wife filed for bankruptcy. The couple resides in Springdale with their two children.

For additional information:
Associated Press. “Ark. Lieutenant Governor to Resign.” Politico, January 10, 2014. http://www.politico.com/story/2014/01/mark-darr-resigning-arkansas-102052 (accessed September 20, 2016).

“Mark A. Darr.” Arkansas Business. http://www.arkansasbusiness.com/people/lists/profile/842/mark-a-darr (accessed September 20, 2016).

“Mark Darr.” Ballotpedia. http://ballotpedia.org/Mark_Darr (accessed September 20, 2016).

William H. Pruden III
Ravenscroft School

Last Updated 9/22/2016

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