Another Arkansas Democrat has received recognition from a national publication. This month, Governing Magazine named State Representative Darrin Williams as one of the 12 state legislators to watch in 2012. Williams is not the first Arkansas Democrat to receive recognition by this national publication. Governor Mike Beebe was named as one of the 2011 Public Officials of the Year by the same magazine.
It’s nice to see Arkansas Democrats receive the recognition they deserve.
As you may recall, Williams is running against Republican State Rep. Terry Rice for Speaker of the House and the partisan make-up of State House plays a central role in that race.
Over the holidays, I analyzed Talk Business’ list of candidates for State Representative, ran election numbers and reviewed the new maps. By my count, Arkansas Democrats will likely gain two seats on the low end and four seats on the high end in the State House.
I can hear Republicans howling in protest with this prediction, but with the Democratically-controlled redistricting process, presidential election year turnout, the massive cash on hand advantage of the Democratic Party over the near-bankrupt Republican Party of Arkansas and the beating the Republican brand has taken over the past few months, it makes for a good playing field for Arkansas Democrats.
Yes, the unpopular Barack Obama is on the ballot, but Arkansans love to vote against the Democratic nominee for President and then make up their own mind for the rest of the ballot. Since 1968, we’ve had 11 Presidential elections and Arkansans have voted against the Democratic Presidential nominee 8 times and voted split tickets for everything else.
All this is to say that if Darrin Williams can hold onto all Democratic votes in the February race for Speaker, he’ll be the next Speaker of the House in 2013.
Here is what Governing Magazine had to say about Rep. Darrin Williams:
Rep. Darrin Williams was adopted and raised in Little Rock. He’s a second-termer in a state with a three-term limit for state representatives, so he’s positioned to become a strong contender for speaker — which would make him the first African-American to hold the position. He has already chaired the House Judiciary Committee, where he won a measure of bipartisan support for legislation.
“Although Williams represents a progressive, urban district, his religious background — he’s the son of a minister — and cultural moderation makes it possible for him to build bridges on issues such as sentencing reform,” says Jay Barth, a political scientist at Hendrix College.
Williams worked as an intern for former U.S. Sen. David Pryor and later his son Mark, then-Arkansas attorney general.