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Arkansas: Lincoln, Halter headed for runoff

By Hastings Wyman
Southern Political Report

May 19, 2010

US Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D), under fire from the left and the right, is headed for a runoff with Lt. Gov. Bill Halter (D), her major foe in her bid for a third term. With 87 percent of precincts reporting, Lincoln had 44 percent of the Democratic Primary vote to 43 percent for Lt. Gov. Bill Halter (D); conservative businessman D.C. Morrison had 13 percent. The turnout was unusually heavy. In the June 13 runoff, Morrison’s more right-leaning supporters might be more inclined to support Lincoln over Halter, who has strong backing from national labor unions and from such liberal organizations as MoveOn.org. Nevertheless, it is never a good sign for an incumbent to be in a runoff; it signals that a majority of the voters have already decided not to go with the status quo. 

Halter’s strong showing against Lincoln also showed the strength of the left wing of the Democratic Party, angered that “Blue Dog” Democrats were not there for liberal and pro-labor legislation after receiving strong support from unions and left-of-center political groups when they were elected. In spite of having a TV spot from President Obama on her behalf, Lincoln was still unable to garner a majority of Democrats behind her renomination.  

On the Republican side, Congressman John Boozman (R), the early favorite who hails from the most GOP-heavy area of the state, led the eight contenders for the GOP Senate nomination for Lincoln’s Senate seat. Boozman had 52 percent; if he holds his majority, he will win the nomination without a runoff. State Sen. Jim Holt (R), a Christian conservative, came in second with 18 percent. In 2004, Holt got 44 percent of the vote as the GOP Senate nominee against Lincoln. Holt edged out state Sen. Gilbert Baker (R), who had been expected to end up in second-place; Baker had 10 percent. Five other candidates received a total of 21 percent of the primary vote.  

Assuming Boozman emerges as the Republican nominee, he will be an early favorite to defeat either Lincoln or Halter in November. Arkansas voters, like the electorates in other Southern states, have shown intense opposition to the Obama Administrations domestic policies and, barring a major shift in the national political environment before the General Election, are more likely than not to give this Democratic seat to the Republicans. 

In the 1st congressional district (Jonesboro, etc.), where seven-termer Marion Berry (D) is retiring, six Democrats sought their party’s nomination. Former state Sen. Tim Wooldridge (D) came in first with 39 percent. Facing Wooldridge in the runoff will be former Berry staffer Chad Causey, who came in second with 28 percent. In third place with 14 percent was state Rep. David Cook. The other three finished in single digits. In the runoff, Wooldrige gets a boost from his strong showing in the primary. Causey should continue to benefit from Berry’s support. On the Republican side, radio station owner Rick Crawford, endorsed by both former Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) and former US Rep. Asa Hutchinson (R), defeated former Capitol Hill staffer Princella Smith, an African American, 74 percent to 26 percent.  

In the 2nd District (Little Rock, etc.), where US Rep. Vic Snyder (D) is retiring, state Sen. Joyce Elliott (D), an African American with labor support who is popular with Little Rock liberals, came in first with 42 percent, and in the runoff will face state House Speaker Robbie Wills (D) who had 25 percent. Three other candidates shared the remaining 33 percent. For the GOP, former US Attorney Tim Griffin had 62 percent to restaurateur Scott Wallace’s 38 percent. Griffin had the GOP establishment in is corner; Wallace had been endorsed by former Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) 

In the 3rd District (Bentonville, etc.), the heavily Republican district where Boozman is stepping down to run for the Senate, in the GOP primary, Rogers, AR, Mayor Steve Womack led the ticket with 34 percent. In second place was state Sen. Cecile Bledsoe (R) with 13.4 percent. Close behind her is Bernie Skoch with 12.8 percent. Womack will face Bledsoe, or possibly Skoch, in the runoff. Five others shared the remaining 40 percent. The only Democrat running is attorney and party activist David Whitaker.  

In the 4th District (Texarkana, etc.), five-term centrist Democrat Mike Ross, with $1,120,000 on hand, is in good shape for reelection, but he still has two GOPers running to challenge him. Beth Anne Rankin (R), a former Miss Arkansas and former Huckabee staffer who ran with his support, won the GOP primary with 55 percent to 45 percent for Glenn Gallas, a Republican/TEA Party activist. The seat is likely to stay Democratic.  


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