Arkansas Republicans are excited about the candidacy of Little Rock banker French Hill for State Representative. French Hill is a top-tier candidate for Republicans, that fact cannot be disputed. However, based on past election results, a Democrat is still strongly favored to win in House District 35.
I’ve lived in House District 35 for most of my adult life, so this story is purely a point of personal privilege since I care deeply who holds this seat. Over the summer, I analyzed every precinct in the district to determine Democrats’ chances of holding onto this open seat. Some people attend swanky parties with canapes and beautiful people, others take the time to analyze the precincts in their area out of curiosity.
I analyzed 2010 and 2012 elections results for every precinct that currently make up the district since 2011 redistricting changed the district lines. In fact, the changes made the district more Democratic, thus giving a Democrats a significant advantage in HD 35.
To understand potential performance of a Democratic candidate in the 2014 mid-term election, you must analyze the results of the last mid-term election. In 2010, a national Republican tsunami hit Arkansas, taking out a Democratic U.S. Senator, giving two Congressional seats previously held by Democrats to Republicans, and all contested statewide races below Governor were won by the GOP.
However in the current version of House District 35, the results were decidedly different.
In analyzing 2010 results, I used then-Lt. Governor candidate Shane Broadway’s election results as a guide to see how a generic, competitive Democrat did in that district. Broadway is not from Pulaski County, and began that race as a general unknown by average voters in that district.
Shane Broadway got roughly 60% of the vote in House District 35. Broadway lost the race to now embattled Mark Darr. That’s a significant victory for a Democrat who never knocked on one door in the district in a year when Democrats lost a number of races.
For another perspective on 2010 election results, consider the vote totals of U.S. Senator Blanche Lincoln in House District 35. Senator Lincoln had literally the worst election results for any incumbent Arkansas U.S. Senator in the past 100 years, only garnering just 37% of the vote. Lincoln’s vote results are the ultimate “base votes” for any Democrat in a mid-term election.
In 2010, Senator Lincoln still got 49% of the vote in House District 35.
The 2012 election results in House District 35 aren’t quite valid when considering the 2014 mid-terms since turnout is significantly higher in a Presidential year than a mid-term election year.
However, the results of two lackluster 2012 Democratic candidates are illuminating on the Democratic base vote in House District 35. President Barack Obama got wiped out in the statewide election totals, but still received 47.6% of the vote in HD 35.
Democratic Congressional nominee Herb Rule received 46% of the vote in HD 35. To put Rule’s election results another way: A Democrat can raise no money, get arrested in the middle of a campaign for drunk driving, and still get 46% of the vote in House District 35.
The point I’m driving toward is with the base votes of Blanche Lincoln and Herb Rule, at a minimum, a Democrat gets 47.5% of the vote just by putting their name on the ballot and not doing one day of campaigning. Plus, Shane Broadway’s 2010 election results in the district prove a Democrat has a major edge in HD 35.
Democrats will nominate a credible and competitive Democrat in House District 35. There is only one announced Democratic candidate, but other Democrats are likely to join the race soon. All are credible with fundraising abilities.
French Hill will have plenty of money and is likely to run a good campaign. However, the eventual Democratic nominee is likely be in the same position. The Democrat may have less money than a banker to be sure, but for a House race there is a point where too much money can do more harm than good.
While readers of Talk Business may know who French Hill is, or the eventual Democratic nominee for that matter, the average voter does not. Both candidates must introduce themselves to the district and run a full-fledged campaign.
This will be a very competitive race, but based on hard numbers, Democrats are still favored to hold onto this seat.
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