Barnett And Meeks Could Face Primary Challenges

This morning we posted our first attempt at the Talk Business 2012 House Candidate list.  Needless to say, putting together a list of candidates for 100 newly drawn districts is a big task, so please bear with us as we iron it out.  And let us know if you see any omissions, incorrect additions, misspellings, candidates in the wrong district, or any of about another dozen errors we could have made.  If it is a huge error, it is likely Michael Cook’s fault.

One interesting theme to observe is that several Republican incumbents might have primary challenges. As The City Wire already noted the Rep. Denny Altes (R-Fort Smith) may see a primary challenge from Mat Pitsch.  In addition, two Republicans from different ends of the Republican politicial spectrum may see a challenge.

Rep. Jonathan Barnett (R-Siloam Springs) drew the angst of many conservatives when he worked with Democratic House Speaker Robert Moore to pass two ballot proposals for tax increases to fund highway improvements.  As chairman of the House Transportation Committee and former highway commissioner appointed by Gov. Mike Huckabee, Barnett spearheaded the effort to refer out a constitutional amendment that will raise state sales tax by half a cent to fund a highway bond program.  The amendment will appear on the 2012 ballot.

Although she has not said this directly, this largely could be the reason Republican activist Robin Lundstrum is strongly considering challenging Barnett in the upcoming primary.  Lundstrum is no stranger to Republican politics.  She and her husband, Tom, served as Arkansas delegates to the RNC in 2008 and have been active in Washington County politics for years where Tom is a Justice of the Peace.  She is currently working on putting together her campaign team and is likely to announce soon.

Barnett is also rumored to be considering running for the State Senate, but this would also pit him against a fellow Republican – former state representative Jim Hendren, who is running for the open seat currently held by his father, Sen. Kim Hendren.  And in an interesting insider baseball twist, facing a primary opponent would force Barnett to resign his party position as National Committeeman as required under RPA Party Rules Section 5(A)(2).

On the other hand, Rep. David Meeks (R-Conway) has become known as one of the most conservative legislators in Little Rock.  Elected as part of the tea party movement in 2010, Meeks has done something rare for a politician – he has kept his campaign promises to fight for lower taxes and limited government.  Perhaps the most high profile was his bill that sought to prevent enforcement of the federal health care bill requirement mandating health insurance for Arkansans.

Considering a challenge to him in District 70 is University of Central Arkansas political science professor Price Dooley. It is expected that Dooley will announce he is seeking this seat next Tuesday, August 27 at the Hilton Garden Inn in Conway.  Dooley tells the Tolbert Report that he feels that "now is the time to come off the sidelines."

Several other open races could be interesting ones to watch.  In District 31, incumbent Rep. David Sanders is likely to run for the open Senate District 15.  Several names have popped up as possible Republican candidates for his open seat, including Saline County Republican Chairman Brett Hooton of Bryant and executive director of the Tobacco Settlement Commission and owner of Larry’s Pizza West, Aaron Black, of Little Rock.

We will try to keep this list updated as we monitor these races and more announcements trickle in.