Mike Ross and Asa Hutchinson appeared before the Arkansas Municipal League annual convention.
Both responded to a question from Little Rock mayor Mark Stodola on the current backup of state prison inmates in county jails.
Ross, a Democrat, said he supported drug treatment for first time offenders, citing the high cost to incarcerate non-violent felons.
"I think our prison system should be reserved for violent offenders," Ross says.
Hutchinson closed his remarks by stating some non-violent offenders needed to be locked up.
"Let me tell you burglary is a serious issue in Arkansas and if somebody commits three or four burglaries, it might just be a property crime but I want them to go to prison," Hutchinson says.
Afterwards Ross said his Republican rival took his comments out of context.
"That does not mean that some non-violent criminals do not need to be in prison, of course they do," Ross said. "It continues to be his pattern, it's just plum silly. It's trying to take something I say and turn it into something else."
Hutchinson maintained he merely responded to what Ross said.
"My interpretation was that he made the case we should only be locking up non-violent offenders," Hutchinson says. "That's what I heard."