Most of the excitement in the state legislature this election year is the record number of general election match-ups in November as Republicans battle to take a majority in each chamber for the first time in history.
However, in less than a month, several Republican candidates will square off in primary races with many of them likely decisive in selecting the new representative or senator.
In the Senate, five districts have a Republican primary, most of which are in northwest Arkansas. It is also interesting to note that several of these match-ups picks a young face of the party against members of the old guard, which could inject the Senate with a dose of fresh ideas.
- Sen. Bill Pritchard (Elkins) v. Rep. Jon Woods (Springdale) – This has become one of the most heated races of the Republican primary where term limited Rep. Woods is challenging the incumbent Sen. Pritchard. And this race perhaps typifies the young guns versus old guard more than any other race. Pritchard has sought to make an issue of Woods’ membership in a rock band. By contrast, Woods has hammered Pritchard’s vote to raise over $559 million in tax increases many of which were cast during the Huckabee years.
- Rep. Tim Summers (Bentonville) v. Bart Hester (Cave City) – This race is also a Young Gun against an Old Guard candidate, but it has been a much more civil race. Summers has the backing of most of the Walmart money, which is certainly a plus in Bentonville. Hester has the support of many of the grassroots conservative groups where Summers is seen as a bit of a RINO having switched parties to run against Vickey Boozman for the state house in 2008.
- Rep. Ed Garner (Maumelle) v. Rep. David Sanders (Little Rock) – The candidates ages also could lump this one into the Young Guns versus Old Guard but the dynamic is very different with both having a solid conservative record. Garner endeared himself to many on the right with his relentless pursuit of the capital gains tax reduction, while Sanders is known for his years spent writing a conservative statewide column. With two solid candidates, this one will likely come down to a fundraising advantage where Sanders has far surpassed Garner.
- Sen. Bruce Holland (Greenwood) v. Rick Green (Van Buren) – Okay – enough with age-ism – this one is about a conservative against a moderate. There is perhaps no single Republican with a more moderate record in the House than former state representative Rick Green who served as Democratic Speaker Robbie Wills point man on passing the tobacco tax. However, Holland has had his share of troubles with his notorious speeding ticket in Perry County.
- Rep. Bryan King (Berryville) v. Bill Coleman (Mountainburg) For the most part, this race has been a quiet one. King is the former minority leader in the House in 2009 where he is now term limited. Coleman is well-known in the southern part of the new district which has a sizable chunk of the population.