It is amazing how much times have changed in Arkansas. The candidate filing period that ended today reveals that the state continues to shift from blue to red.
For starters, the Democrats have no chance to retake the State Senate.
With only 4 races in contention in November, Republicans are assured to hold at least 20 out of 35 seats, while Democrats are only assured of 11 seats. And of the contested races, one race – Sen. Bill Sample in Hot Springs’ District 14 – is against an independent candidate not a Democrat. Sen. Jason Rapert in Conway’s District 35 is the only incumbent Republican with an opponent.
However, the Republicans have a chance of two pick-ups. In Paragould’s District 20, Sen. Robert Thompson faces a rematch with Blake Johnson and in Batesville’s District 19, Sen. David Wyatt decided not to run for re-election. Democratic Rep. James McLean will take on former GOP Rep. Linda Collins-Smith in that now open seat.
The House is much more up for grabs with the current make-up of 51 Republicans to 48/49 Democrats (Rep. Fred Smith was elected as Green Party, but caucuses and has filed for re-election as a Democrat). There are 38 contested elections and Republicans will hold at least 35 seats (or 38 seats if you don’t count challenges from third parties). Democrats will hold at least 27 seats (or 28 seats if you don’t count challenges from third parties).
We will dig into the 34 races with both parties soon to see which way each leans, but Republicans have at least a slight advantage based on filing.
All federal and statewide races will see a general election, expect for Congressman Steve Womack who will be unopposed in northwest Arkansas.
It is interesting to note that almost all the activity in the May primary will be on the Republican ticket.
The governor’s race is the only statewide Democratic primary where Mike Ross will take on Lynette Bryant. By contrast, Republicans will have primaries in the race for Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, State Treasurer, State Auditor, and in the Second and Fourth Congressional Districts. And in the state legislature, Republicans have 3 Senate Districts with primaries, while there are none on the Democratic side. There will be 18 House District primaries with only 4 on the Democratic side.
Again, other than county and local races, Democrats will have only a primary in the race for governor and 4 State House Districts. It will be interesting to see if this causes the turnout in May to shift to the GOP ticket. Even some of these local races show signs of change for Republicans such as in Newport where Republican Charlie Landrum filed for mayor without any opposition.
The Republican State Leadership Committee sent a press release noting the record number of Republican women running this year with 5 statewide and federal candidates, 3 State Senate candidates, and 21 State House candidates.
“On behalf of the RSLC’s ‘Right Women, Right Now’ initiative I’d like to applaud the leadership of Arkansas Republicans and commend them for securing so many talented and hard working women candidates to run for office,” said RSLC Communications Director Jill Bader. “The RSLC looks forward to working with Arkansas Republicans to support these women, including the record number running for state house, who are poised to make strong gains in 2014. We praise the leadership of RLCC Executive Committee Member Senate President Pro Tem Michael Lamoureux, Arkansas House Majority Leader Bruce Westerman and Representative Kelley Linck for spearheading the initiative to put record women on the ballot.”
The campaign season has only begun, but the filing scorecard certainly reinforces the idea that Arkansas continues to turn red.
UPDATE – A reader asked me how many candidates filed for each party in total. Good question so I looked it up.
Republicans had 132 candidates file for 98 different federal and state offices, while Democrats had 88 candidates file for 81 different federal and state offices. Also, Libertarians had an impressive 19 candidates, while the Green Party only had 2 candidates. Only one candidate filed as an Independent.