Mike Huckabee’s Willie Horton

Republican Presidential contender Mike Huckabee’s role in letting a convicted rapist go free so he could later rape and kill a Missouri woman may derail his fastrack to the nomination.

In what is becoming a “he said, they said, he denied” campaign issue, Huckabee’s defense is that he refused to commute a sentence for Wayne Dumond, the rapist, but claims it was the parole board, not he, who put the man back on the streets.

Several members of the parole board claim otherwise, saying Huckabee, then Governor of Arkansas, pressured them to let Dumond walk.

Huckabee’s parole problem breaks back memories of Willie Horton, the murderer released from jail by then-Massachusetts Governor Mike Dukakis, who killed again. A campaign ad showing Horton’s menacing mug shot led to Dukakis’ loss to George H.W. Bush in 1988.

Reports Bloomberg News:

Former Arkansas Governor and Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee said he didn’t pressure a state parole board to release a convicted rapist who later raped again and committed murder.

“My only official action in this was I denied his commutation,” Huckabee said during an interview with CNN. Huckabee said three parole board members weren’t being truthful in their descriptions of pressure exerted by him in the case Wayne Dumond.

Huckabee’s record as governor of Arkansas from 1996 to 2007 is coming under greater scrutiny as he climbs in polls of Republican voters with less than a month to go before the first contest in the nomination race. Huckabee placed second behind former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani among Republicans nationally in a Nov. 30-Dec. 3 Bloomberg/Los Angeles Times survey.

Over the past week he has been asked to respond to reports about the Dumond case, the latest coming yesterday on the Huffington Post Web site. The Web site reported that Huckabee supported Dumond’s release from prison even though several women who had been assaulted by Dumond wrote letters to the governor warning that he was dangerous.

Huckabee, 52, told CNN that he wrote a letter to Dumond telling him that parole was the best option for him because he had decided to deny his request for a commuted sentence. Parole meant Dumond would be supervised after release, Huckabee said.

“For people to now politicize these deaths and to try to make a political case out of it, rather than to simply understand that a system failed and that we ought to extend our grief and heartfelt sorrow to these families, I just regret that politics is reduced to that,” he said on CNN.

Dumond was paroled in 1999. He was arrested two years later on charges of raping and killing a Missouri woman and died in prison in 2005, according to Huffington Post.