Hester, Woods win primaries; transit tax fails

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 130 views 

Primary election night in Northwest Arkansas leaves a transit authority searching for another source of revenue and sent Bart Hester to Little Rock as the new Arkansas Senator for District 1 in Benton County.

Also, Rep. Jon Woods pulled to victory in an often testy primary race for Arkansas Senate District 7 that covers the eastern side of Washington County. Woods will now face Democrat Diana Gonzales Worthen in the general election.

Woods received 2,784 votes, and Pritchard received 2,614 votes. The campaign saw each candidate try to out-conservative the other. Woods accused Pritchard of supporting hundreds of millions of tax increases, while Pritchard questioned Woods values because he was a member of a rock-n-roll band.

Hester captured the new Senate seat with almost 53% of the vote. And it was an expensive vote.

Hester reported $106,800 in total contributions, with expenditures of $71,468 — with more than $20,000 spent with Diamond State Consulting — and a campaign balance of $35,331 as of May 15. Summers reported campaign contributions of $105,045, with expenses of $82,179 and a campaign balance of $22,879 as of May 15.

More expensive was the Pritchard/Woods race.

Pritchard, according to his May 15 report with the Secretary of State’s office, had $120,288 in campaign contributions. As of May 15, he had spent $96,500 and had a campaign fund balance of $38,787. Pritchard also loaned his campaign $15,000.

Woods raised $79,650, loaned his campaign $20,000 and spent $81,792 as of May 15. His campaign balance at the end of the reporting period was $17,858.

In the only other area Arkansas Senate race with a primary, Rep. Bryan King, R-Green Forest, was trending toward a defeat of Mountainburg businessman Bill Coleman to capture the Senate District 5 post. The race does not have a Democrat in the general election.

The only Northwest Arkansas area legislative race with a Democratic primary was for Arkansas House District 85. David Whitaker captured 74% of the vote over opponent Maylon Rice. Whitaker will face Republican Paul Graham in November.

A proposed quarter-cent sales tax to fund a public transportation system was overwhelmingly rejected by 63.76% of the voters in Washington County.

The quarter-cent sales tax was estimated to generate $7.5 million dollars in Washington County to be used to expand the public transportation system in the county. Ridership on public transit has increased by more than 12% in the last year despite the loss of three routes, according to ORT. The ridership numbers are expected to increase, especially if the number of buses and routes increase.

Earlier this year, Benton County’s Quorum Court voted against placing the tax increase on the ballot. In Washington County, the Quorum Court held three meetings where dozens of people on both sides of the issue spoke fervently either for or against the measure.

Advocates for the tax increase said it would provide needed services to elderly and the disabled, students, and many other residents who don’t have other transportation. Those who opposed the tax generally fell into one of two categories: those who do not want to see taxes increased, or those who would rather a more regional plan that incorporates highways and more counties be developed.

An effort by the city of Siloam Springs to create a municipally owned-operated cable system was rejected, with almost 59% of city voters against the plan.

Siloam Springs city officials proposed to invest $8.3 million to run fiber optic cable directly to homes and businesses and add cable, Internet and phone services to its city-owned utilities. If passed, the city said it could provide more bandwidth and faster service than offered by private providers, officials said, while providing new revenue for the city and an enticement for new industries. The project would be funded by reserve monies and be paid off in 12 years and have a positive cash flow after three years, if projections are accurate.

If the measure had been approved, Siloam Springs would have joined Conway and Paragould as the only Arkansas cities to offer city-owned broadband services. Nationwide about 150 municipalities offer broadband services, including nearby Sallisaw, Okla.

Residents opposed to the measure, and broadband providers Cox Communications and CenturyLink, said the proposal is too risky, would cost more than projected, and is a case of government overstepping its bounds. A chorus of state leaders, including Lt. Gov. Mark Darr, sent letters to city officials opposing the effort.

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.