This morning, we posted the list compiled by Talk Business contributors Roby Brock, Michael Cook, and myself of names we have heard mentioned as possible candidates for State Senate in 2012. We will be updating this list as the election cycle develops and hopefully will also have a House candidate list up soon but since it has about three times the names, it takes a bit longer.
You will note that the list shows quite an open field for the 2012 cycle. About one-third of the districts will be open with no incumbent due to term limits and redistrict shuffling. In addition, all 35 races will be up for election/re-election since redistricting just finished and it is a brand new map. This likely will mean that we will see a plethora of competitive races.
Compare this to only four years ago when the only competitive race was Sen. Gilbert Baker’s re-election campaign over Joe White in Conway. What a stark contrast.
This shows a tremendous opportunity for Arkansas Republicans but translating this into success depends on beginning the task of winning now. The battle to take the majority in both the House and Senate will not be achieved unless Republicans focus like a laser beam on one task for the next six months – recruiting the best candidates to carry the banner for the party.
My left-leaning colleague Michael Cook posted this morning on the 2010 cycle. As he explains, Arkansas Democrats were caught off-guard in the previous cycle while Arkansas Republicans were organized, focused on the key races, and were able to capitalize with major gains. It is seriously doubtful that the Democrats will make this same mistake this time around.
In order to win, Republicans need to begin now in winning the battle for the best candidates. If Republicans are able to recurit common sense conservatives who are well-known and respected in their districts and they provide those candidates with the resources they need, then it will be almost impossible for Democrats to hold on to their majorities in the state legislature.
And, I would submit that the RPA has a key opportunity to hire someone to focus completely on this task. Last week, we found out that Chase Dugger will step down this month from his post as RPA executive director to go into consulting. The executive committee would be wise to fill this spot with someone charged with the task of candidate recruitment. They need to bring in someone who knows the map districts inside and out and will work their tail off to recruit the best slate of candidates in the districts in which Republicans can compete. Give them whatever title fits, but make it clear this is their job from now until the filing date.
Even though the election is 15 months away, every day lost will make it that much harder to achieve the Republican’s goal of "51 and 18." The battle for the best candidates is going on now.