Republicans got some good news today in the battle for the majority in the Arkansas House.

Currently, Republicans hold the majority with the slimmest of margins – 51 out of 100 House seats, so every race will be critical in the 2014 election.  And, any pick-ups will be critical to holding this majority.

This is why the news last night from Talk Business that Little Rock banker French Hill is jumping in the race for House District 35 is important.  Hill is well-known in this district and will run a good, well-financed campaign.  The seat is currently held by term-limited Democratic Rep. John Edwards. On the Democratic side, Jody Mahony, the son of the long-time Democratic legislator from El Dorado, has also announced he will seek the position.

“Representing District 35 in the General Assembly would be an honor. I grew up in the district and live and work in the district today.” said Hill in his announcement. “Every day our elected officials make decisions that impact future growth in family income and job opportunities. If elected, I will fight every day for policies that spur economic growth and jobs. I will demand greater accountability at every level of state government as to how we spend the taxpayers’ money. And, as to education policy, with my colleagues across the State, I will focus on ‘what we get’ – K-12 student success and readiness and a ready workforce – as opposed to a ‘what we spend’ approach. For every family and their kids to have a brighter and better future and higher wages, we must have quality educational outcomes at every level, safe streets and a pro-growth, dynamic business climate.”

The district is winnable for Republicans with a candidate like Hill.  In 2008, Edwards narrowly defeated Republican Kelly Eichler; the race even went to a recount where he won by only 72 votes.  Of course, redistricting has changed the district somewhat and most believe the numbers have shifted in the Democrat’s favor.  In 2012, Edwards won re-election with 56 percent of the vote over Patrice Wolfe.

I like Republicans’ chances this year with Hill who is a stronger candidate than Wolfe. Nothing against her, but her campaign was only able to raise about $15,000. Hill should have an ability to raise money or self-finance and put more money into the race.  His current position as President of the Little Rock Chamber of Commerce will also be an advantage.

The pick-up could be critical to holding or even building on the 51 Republicans seats in the House.

Another pick-up opportunity is down in House District 19 in Nashville where Democratic Rep. Nate Steel is running for Attorney General. On the flip side, Democrats have the potential to pick up House District 84 in Fayetteville where Republican Rep. Charlie Collins is running for Lt. Governor.

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Jason Tolbert is the moderator for his opinion blog, The Tolbert Report. He can be reached by e-mail at Jason@TolbertReport.com. Follow him on Twitter: @TolbertReport.

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