House Minority Leader Rep. Greg Leding (D-Fayetteville) says a bipartisan session, key issue victories, and razor-thin margins give Democrats a good chance to take back the Arkansas House of Representatives.
In a post-session interview with Talk Business Arkansas, Leding said that he felt there was plenty of bipartisanship in 89th General Assembly, except on particularly divisive abortion, gun and voting legislation.
“On the whole, I think it was fairly bipartisan. There were absolutely some very partisan, very heated moments,” he said. “It really kind of had to be because it was so evenly split.
Republicans held a 51-48 advantage over Democrats in the 100-member chamber. There was one Green Party representative, Rep. Fred Smith of Crawfordsville.
Leding said despite a public facade of complacency in the Medicaid debate, Democrats hashed out many questions regarding Medicaid expansion and the “private option” behind closed doors.
“Publicly, we were pretty quiet, but internally we had a lot of debate. We wanted to make sure that we weren’t being led down a path that we didn’t want to go. Once we learned more about it, we were comfortable with it.”
Leding said Democrats knew that too much visibility on the subject could have scared off Republican votes needed for the supermajority to approve the funding. It led to his party members keeping a lower profile on the topic and he said that straight Medicaid expansion and the “private option” both had strengths and weaknesses.
“I think only time is going to tell whether or not it [private option] works out,” said Leding. “I do have a lot of hope for it. I do think it was very innovative, and I give a lot of credit to the legislators who generated this idea.”
Leding points to the Medicaid debate, the Big River Steel superproject, the new markets jobs act, a COLA for state employees, stopping certain education legislation, and preventing a raid on general revenues for highway funding as session accomplishments.
He is hopeful that the close margins in the House and the controversial votes that showed partisan divisions will work to the Democrats’ advantage in the next election cycle.
“I don’t take it as a given or that it will be easy – it will be difficult. But I think with things being so evenly split and the way some of the things went in this session and the way the political winds are blowing, I like our chances of taking back the House in 2014,” he said.
You can listen to the full interview with Leding below.