This week we’ll review potential Democratic candidates for the 1st, 2nd and 4th Congressional Districts. As of yet, there are no formally announced Democratic candidates in any of those districts and 2012 is just around the corner.
Today, we’ll review the First Congressional District currently held by Republican Rep. Rick Crawford. As you recall, last year Rick Crawford defeated Democratic nominee Chad Causey 52% to 44%. thus making it the first time a Republican won the 1st Congressional District since Reconstruction.
Representatives of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) recently visited Arkansas looking to recruit candidates to run against the Republican incumbent, but as of yet no one has officially stepped forward.
2012 is the best year for Democrats to defeat Crawford since the easiest way to defeat any incumbent Congressman is during their first re-election as they are still largely unknown in the district and voters are more apt to replace them. Potential Democratic candidates who believe they can wait until 2014 to run against Crawford are fooling themselves. If Crawford wins re-election, he’ll solidify his base and collect serious political chits making it tougher to unseat him.
President Barack Obama is on the 2012 ballot, which is a double-edged sword for Democrats:
1) Obama will significantly increase Democratic turnout.
2) However, it will be easier for Republicans to nationalize the race and make it a referendum on Obama.
The Democratic nominee must fight to keep the campaign agenda on local issues. A positive note for Democrats is next year there won’t be a statewide Arkansas Democratic candidate who drags down the ticket as was the case in 2010.
Democrats can win back the 1st Congressional District and in the next couple of months a credible candidate will emerge. With the right candidate and message, Democrats can defeat Rick Crawford.
Here are potential candidates for the 1st Congressional District:
Chad Causey – As the 2010 nominee, many feel Causey has the right of first refusal for the nomination and remains popular among Democratic insiders. However, rematches are difficult because the defeated candidate, previously rejected by voters, must make a compelling case that they are now worthy of a vote, and that the incumbent voters "hired" must now be fired. If Causey doesn’t run in 2012, he still has a bright political future.
State Senator Robert Thompson - Thompson could make a formidable opponent, but while his name has been floated for Congress, it’s unknown at this time if he actually runs. One potential obstacle to his candidacy is he must give up his Senate seat since it’s up for re-election in 2012. His name is also mentioned as a potential AG candidate in 2014, but a quirk in our State Constitution may prevent him from making that run if he just seeks re-election.
Scott Ellington – Prosecuting Attorney for Craighead County. Ellington won his seat in the 2010 Democratic primary and did not have a Republican opponent that year. He has been more active at Democratic Party activities leading some to speculate his consideration of a Congressional run. However, what I’ve heard recently leads me to believe he probably won’t run.
Steve Rockwell – Rockwell is the only potential candidate who has never run for political office. Rockwell said publicly at the 4th of July Democratic picnic in Corning that he’s considering a run. After hearing his speech that day, observers reported that while his heart is in the right place, "he still needs some work." The good news is that if he runs, there’s still plenty of time to develop as a candidate.
L.J. Bryant – Bryant was the Democratic nominee for Land Commissioner in 2010. Last year, Bryant defeated the establishment’s candidate for the Democratic nomination, Monty Davenport, but was defeated in the general election. Bryant had difficulty raising money last cycle and self-funded much of his campaign for Land Commissioner. It remains to be seen if he could raise the needed funds to defeat an incumbent Congressman.
Check back later this week as we review potential Democratic candidates for the 2nd and 4th Congressional Districts.