Altes wins again; Coomer blasts Blevins

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 101 views 

Rep. Denny Altes, a Republican legislator from Fort Smith who has never lost a legislative election, kept his winning streak clean for his last legislative race.

Altes captured 57% of the vote to defeat Mat Pitsch in the race for Arkansas House District 76 — a region that includes the eastern and southeastern portion of Fort Smith.

With no Democrat in the race, Altes will represent the district in the next General Assembly. The new term for Altes will be his last under Arkansas’ term limit rules.

"It's humbling to see the outpouring of all the voter support and appreciation. It's real humbling. Our forefathers designed our system for members of the House to go out every two years and meet people, and learn their issues and needs, and this whole race was about economic development,” Altes said when asked about his victory. “Our Republican caucus has come up with a simple plan, and the main part of that simple plan is reducing taxes, red tape and regulations on our small businesses being choked by it, so I'm looking forward to getting to work on that at the next assembly, and to helping our state on getting up to speed and staying competitive. I'm also looking forward to getting something done on reducing personal income tax this next session."

Altes also praised the effort of his opponent, saying Pitsch “ran a really good race.”

With a few boxes left to count, Pitsch was unwilling to concede but realistic about his chances.

"It looks like we're not going to get the job done. The last we heard, all but six precincts had reported, and while it was still fairly close, we had about 320 votes to make up. We haven't conceded, but I'm going to have to say congratulations to Representative Altes and his campaign. He got a lot of people out to the polls to vote for him,” Pitsch said. “I also want to say thank you to all my volunteers and supporters. We had good helpers, and they worked hard for us."

In the other closely watched area legislative race, Sen. Bruce Holland, R-Greenwood, appeared to be ahead of former Rep. Rick Green in the primary for the Arkansas Senate District 9 seat. The winner of the primary will face Rep. Tracy Pennartz, D-Fort Smith, in the general election.

With 69.49% of the vote, Denora Coomer handily defeated Sebastian County Circuit Clerk Ken Blevins in the GOP primary for the important county post.

Coomer has worked as the Sebastian County Court Administrator for 28 years. She reports to the Circuit Judges and coordinates courtroom operations for the circuit courts and the drug court. Her primary duties include juror management for the Fort Smith and Greenwood districts, felony case management, drug court and budgets for two departments, Courtroom Operations and Drug Court.

Coomer will face Kathy Guthrie, the deputy clerk in the Circuit Clerk’s office.

“I greatly appreciate all of Sebastian County voters … and the Republican Party who supported me through this,” Coomer said, adding that her husband, Lowell, has been her top supporter through the primary election cycle.

She also thanked those who switched party ballots to vote for her in the Republican primary.

“And I have to do a shout out for sure to all those voters, my friends, who sacrificed their choices and came out for me,” Coomer said.

A Blevins win would have been a surprise. He has faced numerous well-publicized charges related to sexual harassment and creating a hostile work environment. On May 12, a three-member Sebastian County grievance committee ruled that Blevins sexually harassed office employees and created a hostile work environment. The ruling was hollow in that the grievance committee has no enforcement power against an elected official.

The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission considered action against Blevins, but eventually decided there was not enough evidence to warrant a federal action.

Primary complainants in the case continue to pursue civil action against Blevins.

4th District GOP candidate Tom Cotton appeared to be heading to a primary win without the added expense of a runoff with Beth Anne Rankin.

On May 13, a Talk Business-Hendrix College survey of Fourth District Republican primary voters showed Cotton emerging as the frontrunner in the Congressional race. The poll was conducted on Thursday, May 10, 2012, and had Cotton with 51% support compared to 33% for Beth Anne Rankin.

Cotton was the first Republican to enter the 4th District race and he early on caught the eye of the National Republican Congressional Committee. On Aug. 18, Cotton landed on the NRCC “On the Radar” list because he has raised $100,000. Cotton is one of only six Republicans in the Young Guns program to make this list for 2012.

Rankin, who was endorsed by former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and lost to U.S. Rep. Mike Ross, D-Prescott in the 2010 Congressional election, was the early favorite because of her name recognition.

On the Democratic side, Arkansas Sen. Gene Jeffress and Q. Byrum Hurst appeared headed to a runoff for the Democratic nomination in the 4th Congressional District.

The newly formed 4th Congressional District now captures territory once solidly part of the 3rd Congressional District.

Crawford County is split almost evenly down the middle with the western half in the 3rd District and the eastern half in the 4th. The city of Alma — about 5,000 people — is split down the middle, with 2 city precincts voting in the 3rd District and 2 precincts voting in the 4th District.

Franklin County is moved entirely out of the 3rd District and into the 4th District. Madison County is also moved out of the 3rd District into the 4th.

Lavaca and environs in the northeastern corner of Sebastian County are pulled into the 4th District. Roughly one-third of Sebastian County below Greenwood and below Fort Chaffee and Chaffee Crossing will be in the 4th District.