2014 Election Preview: Arkansas

Arkansas is the land of the Clintons and for years Democrats have dominated both in the United States Congress and the state capital of Little Rock. However, the long-term trend in the Natural State, as with the rest of the South, has been decisively towards the GOP. Before the 2010 election Democrats held both houses of the Arkansas state legislature, both Senate seats, and 75% of the House seats. Since then they are down to one Senator, zero houses of state legislature, and zero seats in the House of Representatives. This year the GOP has the chance to complete its sweep as it contests both the final Arkansas Democrat in the US Senate and the governorship.

Governor: Popular Democratic Governor Mike Bebee is term limited and there’s a barn-burner of a race to replace him. The Democrats look set to nominate former Rep. Mike Ross to be their nominee while the former head of the DEA and the 2006 gubernatorial nominee Asa Hutchinson is the front runner on the Republican side. Hutchinson lost badly to Bebee back in 2006, but this is a very different environment and this time he won’t have to run against an incumbent. Polls have Ross and Hutchinson in a dead-heat and right now this race is a Toss-Up.

Senate: Despite being the son of a popular Senator and Governor, current Arkansas Senator Mark Pryor is a Democrat in a deep red state during a bad time to be a Democrat and bottom line: he’s in trouble. The Republicans have recruited a top-notch candidate in Rep. Tom Cotton, an Iraq War veteran and a competent politician to boot. Polls have shown Pryor struggling to break out of the low forties and he’s currently treading water in a swim-or-die campaign while Cotton has the wind at his sails. And while Pryor has the fundraising advantage, Cotton can rely on groups like Americans for Prosperity bring in the heavy artillery in the form of TV ads and voter mobilization. Given all these factors, this race can be rated as Leans Republican.

House:

AR-02: Two-term Rep. Tim Griffin (R) is retiring and there is a trio of Republicans looking to succeed him. State Rep. Anne Clemmer is the only elected official in the race and she’s joined by former Bush aide French Hill and Colonel Conrad Reynolds. The only Democrat in the race is former North Little Rock Mayor Pat Hays, who’s running as a conservative Democrat (as he has to in order to have a chance at winning this red district). If Clemmer or Hill wins the GOP primary, then this race looks pretty safe for the Republicans. But Colonel Reynolds is a bit of a wildcard (I don’t ever recall seeing a candidate emphasize his military rank as much as he does) and it is possible he could blow this one. But for now, this race is Likely Republican.

AR-04: This seat is being vacated by Rep. Tom Cotton as he makes a run for the US Senate. The GOP primary field is split between the establishment candidate, Arkansas House Majority Leader Bruce Westerman, and outsider businessman Tommy Moll. Meanwhile, the Democrats have former FEMA Director James Lee Witt who, like his counterpart in the 2nd District, is running as a conservative Democrat in hostile territory. If Westerman gets the nod this race is all but over, but even an unproven candidate like Moll would be the favorite to win in November. This race is Likely Republican.

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