- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 7, 2006

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Gov. Mike Huckabee and former President Bill Clinton are neck-and-neck when it comes to having things named after them in their home state, like a fishing pond (Mr. Huckabee) and elementary school (Mr. Clinton) in their shared hometown of Hope.

From Huckabee Lake to Clinton Avenue, the state’s top political figures are getting honors their predecessors never did: Landmarks named after them while they are still alive.

“I’ve always had this thing about being gone before you have a name on a building,” said David Pryor, a former governor and former U.S. senator. His name is on the federal building at Camden and the oral and visual history center at the University of Arkansas.

With a presidential library, the University of Arkansas’ school of public service, a Little Rock street and two public schools to his name, Mr. Clinton has a slight advantage over Mr. Huckabee.

But the governor, who recently dedicated the Mike and Janet Huckabee Lake in his hometown of Hope, has a growing list of landmarks named in his honor.

Before the Dec. 28 lake dedication in Hope, Mr. Huckabee’s name was on a Pine Bluff nature center, a building at the Arkansas School for the Blind and the Ouachita Baptist University education school. In the spring, the state will dedicate a nature center in Fort Smith named after Mrs. Huckabee.

“It’s always a flattering honor when something like that surfaces,” Mr. Huckabee said. “We’ve certainly never approached anybody.”

The chairman of the nonprofit foundation that built Mr. Clinton’s presidential library said there are plenty of naming opportunities for both political heavyweights.

“I don’t see it as a contest or keeping score or a concentrated effort,” Skip Rutherford said. “I see it as an opportunity to recognize two important political figures.”

The abundance of sites named for the former president and sitting governor represents a change in attitude about honoring politicians while they are still alive — or even in office.

Mr. Pryor said he doesn’t begrudge Mr. Huckabee or Mr. Clinton for their growing number of namesake sites but that he feels uncomfortable having things named for politicians who are still alive — including himself.

“Usually you put a name on there and it’s permanent. It ought not to be taken lightly as to whose name goes on a building or a structure,” he said.

Mr. Huckabee laughed off the idea that rivalry between himself, a Republican, and Mr. Clinton, a Democrat, over building a legacy through these sites.

“No competition,” he said. “The only competition is to improve Arkansas and I’m sure he would feel the exact same way.”

Mr. Huckabee is term-limited and must leave office in January 2007. He is the third-longest-serving governor in the state’s history, with Orval Faubus and Mr. Clinton having more years in their tenures.

When he leaves office, Mr. Huckabee will become director of a center for education and public policy at Ouachita Baptist University’s Michael D. Huckabee School of Education.

It’s not clear whether Mr. Clinton would have more sites named after him if not for the scandals he faced as president. A portion of the debate over Little Rock’s decision to name a street after the former president came during his impeachment battle in 1998 and 1999. Ultimately, the city decided against naming an entire Little Rock thoroughfare for Mr. Clinton, scaling back the honor to a few blocks near his presidential library.

Mr. Rutherford said he doubts the scandals have had any effect on using Mr. Clinton’s name on buildings.

“Not only is he an Arkansas figure, but he’s a national and international figure,” he said. “There are significant tributes to him across the country and the world.”

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