Speaking of wreckage: Republican legislative majority makes big gains | Arkansas Blog

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Speaking of wreckage: Republican legislative majority makes big gains

Posted By on Wed, Nov 5, 2014 at 7:26 AM

I'm off to do TV, but one final thought on elections.

The Arkansas legislature is now solidly, irrevocably Republican. What were people like me thinking in believing Democrats were mounting a credible effort to reverse the 51-49 Republican majority?

The final tally isn't in, but it looks to me that the majority will rise by at least 13, to 64 Republicans. The Democrats didn't reverse a single GOP seat. Republicans ousted a number of Democratic incumbents. Republicans also added two more seats to their already big Senate majority, including the ouster of the Senate Democratic leader, Robert Thompson. Tea Party followers won those two races.

I think the private option renewal, much as all the insiders say Asa Hutchinson favors it, will be far trickier with fewer Democrats to add to the vote total. It passed the Senate last time with the precise number of votes needed. At least four seats will now be held by professed opponents of the private option. But Governor Hutchinson will have reason to try his powers of persuasion on them and others.

At last report, with all votes counted, but totals unofficial, Republicans picked up 13 seats. They beat Fonda Hawthorne, David Kizzia, John Catlett, Patti Julian, Homer Lenderman, Wes Wagner, Harold Copenhaver, Tommy Wren and Tommy Thompson. Four previous Democratic seats were converted that were not sought by incumbents — Nate Steel, Jim Nickels, Butch Wilkins and James McLean.

Two Democrats, incumbent James Ratliff and newcomer Camille Bennett, were ahead, but by only 49 and 69 votes, respectively.

In the Senate, the Republican gains came from Linda Collins-Smith defeat of James McLean for a seat previously held by a Democrat and the defeat of Thompson.

PS — Those great Democratic candidates in Benton County, the ones endorsed by the local Republican opposition over sketchy Republican opponents. They all got waxed. The worst defeat was suffered by the Walmart-supported former Bentonville council member, Leah Williams. In a county where statewide candidates wracked up 20,000-plus vote margins, it seems silly in retrospect to have harbored any hopes there. Hindsight is nearly always perfect.

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