State Democrats seem to be playing offense when it comes to retaining their majorities in the Legislature. We’re in the middle of the political filing period and some strong Democratic candidates have recently emerged to challenge Republican incumbents or are running for open seats currently held by Republicans.
Today, I’ll highlight eight legislative races where Democrats are playing some good offense in their fight to retain their majorities. In the near future, I’ll also cover other races that are worth watching.
House Dist. 26: Butch Hightower and David Kizza face each other in the May Democratic primary for the honor of challenging Republican incumbent Loy Mauch. Mauch is literally one of the Top 50 worst state legislators in the country, according to TruTV.com Once the Democratic nominee is elected, look for Mauch’s shameful past ties to Southern separatist groups to come back to haunt him. Mauch’s 2010 Democratic opponent apparently had never heard of the new-fangeled invention known as the Internet and didn’t bother to check out his opponent’s record.
House Dist. 28 – Former State Representative Barbara Nix will face Republican State Representative Kim Hammer, who defeated her in the Republican tidal wave of 2010. This district still retains strong Democratic leanings.
House Dist. 32 – Business owner and former Little Rock City Director Barbara Graves filed last week to challenge incumbent Allen Kerr. The district does lean Republican, but Graves ties to the business community, fundraising ability and significant name recognition make her a formidable candidate. As one Little Rock Chamber of Commerce insider told me, “Barbara is probably the only Democrat who can beat Allen.”
House Dist. 39 – This seat is open to due to the departure of term-limited Republican State Rep. Ed Garner. Two Republicans are running for the nomination, Mark Lowery and Maumelle City Clerk Joshua Clausen. As you recall, Clausen was recently caught using government property for his campaign, which is a big no-no. The only announced Democratic candidate is first-time candidate and attorney Kelly Halstead. Halstead seems to be a dynamic candidate and has a lot folks excited about her running.
House Dist. 75 – Incumbent Gary Stubblefield is running for the State Senate, thus leaving likely Republican nominee Charlotte Douglas to face former Democratic State Rep. Steve Breedlove in November. Breedlove, a Church of Christ minister and former high school principal, was heavily recruited to run again because his conservative beliefs mirror the district’s profile.
Senate Dist. 18 – Republican Senator Missy Irvin faces Clerburne County attorney William “Zac” White in a recently redrawn district. The votes seem to be in Cleburne County, where White is from, and that county, along with other parts of the district, are completely new to Irvin which causes problems for her re-election prospects.
Senate Dist. 28 - Redistricting also comes into play with this Senate district. Incumbent Republican Jonathan Dismang runs in a new district where he is largely unknown. The district has a traditional Democratic lean and he faces popular Democratic State Representative Tiffany Rogers. Rogers already represents a good portion of the Senate district.
Senate Dist. 35 - Democratic State Rep. Linda Tyler is challenging Senator Jason Rapert. It was revealed last week that a Rapert campaign operative helped spread a false rumor that Tyler might not run for Senate, leaving that campaign with egg on their faces when Tyler filed to run on Monday.
Reps. Tyler and Rogers are not newly announced candidates, but the outcome of their races will have an impact on who controls the Senate in 2013.
Filing closes at noon on Thursday and there will be more twists and turns on who files to run and who doesn’t.
The above races are signs that Arkansas Democrats are not letting Republican incumbents get by without having a serious challenge and are going after seats currently held by Republicans. It’s a smart strategy and one that could pay off well in November.