A Tea Partyer won an unexpected and easy victory over House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in Virginia tonight, which has the 'baggers chortling. Message: Republican primary voters in Virginia don't like immigrants much. But I've already seen even some extremely conservative Republican voices on social media raise the possibility that the Republican Party might drive independent voters away.
Which brings us to the two big runoffs in Arkansas today.
You had the ultra-extreme David "Stand Your Ground" Sterling, backed by a huge sum of out-of-state money against Leslie Rutledge, the proclaimed anti-abortion, gun toting Christian woman, who managed to look mainstream by virtue of working in Republican establishment jobs.
It was close in the early voting, but big leads we're noted in early voting for Rutledge in a couple of bigger counties — Pulaski and Saline, the latter maybe the biggest Republican vote engine. With a quarter of the vote in, Rutledge has a comfortable lead. But it's all about where the votes have come from so far and which are out.
UPDATE: By 9:20 p.m., with Rutledge showing 56 percent of the vote, major media were calling the race for Rutledge. This is no victory for moderation. But it was a defeat of scurrilous dark money and outlandish TV claims. It is always good to see that happen. Democrat Nate Steel, a state representative from Nashville, awaits in the fall, among others.
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RUTLEDGE CELEBRATES: After runoff victory.
SENATE DISTRICT 17
Here you had a certified 'bagger, Scott Flippo of Mountain Home, against Rep. John Burris of Harrison, architect of the Obamacare Light Medicaid expansion plan. It was a good civic work that an unhinged Flippo and clandestine cash worked hard to turn into a negative for a capable (and extremely conservative) legislator.
The early vote gave Burris an edge thanks to a bigger vote in his home of Boone County than Flippo was enjoying in his home of Baxter. Turnout in the main counties (Marion is also in the mix) was the key here. Each running well ahead at home — 61-39 for Flippo in Baxter for example and 63-37 for Burris in Boone, but the net is about a wash. Close race.
8:47 PM UPDATE: Update from Baxter Bulletin on the vote looks bad for Burris, good for Flippo.
Flippo is ahead 3,473 to 3,411, but … 9 of 11 precincts are counted in Boone County while only 27 of 43 are counted in Baxter. And Flippo is leading in Marion, with 14 of 16 counted.
9 PM UPDATE: Baxter Bulletin again, with a 3750-3645 lead for Flippo, with all votes counted in Boone County and a few precincts supposedly uncounted in Boone and Marion.
FINAL ACCORDING TO BAXTER BULLETIN:
Scott Flippo won the seat by a 3,913-3,712 vote over Rep. John Burris, of Harrison
Here's how it went down by county, according to the Bulletin (turns out Marion County was the key, with Burris actually having a 37-vote lead over Flippo in the combined vote of Boone and Baxter):
Baxter County: 1,451 (Final)
Boone County: 1,780 (Final)
Marion County: 481 (Final)
Total Votes: 3,712
Baxter County: 2,062 (Final)
Boone County: 1,132 (Final)
Marion County: 719 (Final)
Total Votes: 3,913
They'll be dumping tea in Lake Norfork tonight.
The fight over continuation of Medicaid expansion gets interesting, with a Senate short of a 75 percent vote based on campaign and other declaration. But I don't care what Scott Flippo says — or the other 'baggers — I predict tonight the expansion will continue. Arkansas can't afford not to, even if it must resort to some bad old judges to get it done.
The state of Arkansas continues to argue that Supreme Court Justice Rhonda Wood, and not a special justice appointed last year, should decide the pending appeal of the lawsuit over the state's ban on same-sex marrige. /more/
The state omnibus spending bills reveal how some $21 million won by the attorney general's office in a class action lawsuit will be spent, including some $6 million left to direct spending by Attorney General Leslie Rutledge herself. /more/
Of course the House Rules Committee (controlled by House Speaker Jeremy Gillam) defeated Democratic Rep. Camille Benett's proposed HB 1822 to allow the request of a "constitutional issue assessment" by the attorney general. /more/
A class action lawsuit all but completed during Attorney General Dustin McDaniel's tenure produced a $21.5 million windfall for the state of Arkansas from Standard and Poor's over misleading financial ratings. /more/
Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge has concluded a a review of Treasurer Dennis Milligan's illegal hiring of a first cousin with an agreement that Miligan will pay the maximum civil penalty of $1,000. /more/
Matt Campbell, a Little Rock lawyer, said he filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit today against the Little Rock School District for its failure to provide personnel records of Teresa Gordon, a media specialist at Jefferson Elementary.
Ann Clemmer tells the Democrat-Gazette she's given "background information" in the federal probe into Mike Maggio and illicit campaign contributions. This naturally raises questions for others who benefitted from money raised by a state senator implicated in the scandal, including Supreme Court Associate Justice Rhonda Wood.
Blue Hog Report has mined another interesting report out of public record. He's found a copy of the doctoral dissertation of Dexter Suggs, interim superintendent of the Little Rock School District, and compared it with another writer's work and found verbatim similarities.
Whitewater alert: Larry Nichols endorses Hillary Clinton for president. Mother Jones mines some comedy gold in looking for overlooked opposition research in Arkansas on the 2016 presidential candidate.
I believe I'll check KATV tonight. The Education Department continued its silence today on what Education Commissioner Johnny Key intends to do, if anything about Dexter Suggs, kept on as interim school superintendent of the Little Rock District after the state booted the school board and took over the district.
According to multiple sources familiar with the family, Mauricio and Cathy Torres, the Bella Vista couple arrested earlier this month for the rape and murder of their 6-year-old child, had at least five other children removed from their custody by a Jonesboro court in 2004 or 2005.
You heard it here first and the state Ethics Commission heard it in an explanation Friday: the laughingly described "ethics reform" legislation of the 2015 session merely all but guarantees that taking a free gift and filling out an erroneous campaign report will be just about impossible to enforce.