Future elections and a review of political positions are now part of the political conversation following the end of the first session of the 89th Arkansas General Assembly.
The chairman of the Republican Party of Arkansas says that the 2014 elections will be a referendum on conservative government, while his Democratic counterpart said his party will retake control of the state House of Representatives.
Arkansas GOP Chairman Doyle Webb and Democratic Party of Arkansas Chairman Will Bond appeared on the most recent edition of Capitol View, a central Arkansas television show.
Webb said his party showed it could govern effectively as the GOP held majorities in both legislative chambers for the first time in 138 years.
“The people of Arkansas have seen what a real, conservative legislature is and they will expand those numbers. We will come back with a greater majority to improve greater tax reduction, more pro-life bills, greater efficiencies in government, and that will be a referendum that Republicans will gain seats in the 2014 election.”
Bond said that without the leadership of Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe the legislative session would have remained focused on divisive social issues. Bond contends that with only a 51-48 deficit in the House, the 100-member chamber is very much within reach for Democratic re-control.
“Arkansas Democrats are in a great position in 2014. The races that are set up – that are going to be open seats – we have great opportunities in and we expect to take back the House,” Bond said. “They’ve [Republicans have] made it harder to vote, harder to make decisions with your doctor. It was a very partisan session in the beginning focused on issues that divide us. It was up to Democrats who pushed and focused on health care, Big River Steel, jobs, jobs, jobs.”
Both men also weighed in on the 2014 U.S. Senate race, which pits incumbent U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., against an unannounced Republican opponent. Webb said a strong candidate will be fielded, and he added that President Barack Obama – unpopular in Arkansas – will be an albatross for Pryor in the general election.
“That race will come down to Obama-Pryor, Obama-Pryor, and it’s the Republicans that are protecting the state of Arkansas from the liberal policies of Barack Obama facilitated through Sen. Pryor,” said Webb.
“President Obama will not be on the ballot in the mid-term elections. Sen. Pryor has always been a voice for Arkansas. His slogan has been to always put ‘Arkansas first,’ which he has done. He’s an incredible, humble public servant and right now he’s running unopposed, so I think Chairman Webb may be overstating the challenge that may be made against Sen. Pryor.”
Political Animals Club president Rex Nelson, former communications director for Gov. Mike Huckabee, says he’s unsure if Republicans helped or hurt their chances for holding on to majorities in the Arkansas legislature after this recently concluded session.
“It’s too early to tell. I wish I could sit here and tell you that Republicans either helped themselves or they hurt themselves with this legislative session. I’ve got to sit back and watch a little bit,” said Nelson in a Talk Business on Fox 16 interview.
“You’ve got a real division in the Republican Party and it comes with when you’re in the majority sometimes you start fighting amongst yourselves,” he said.
Nelson said the early part of the session was dominated by one faction of the party’s leadership and the second half was controlled by another.
“You have the more business-type Republicans that focus on fiscal issues and then you have the more social Republicans, and some of the people frankly that came in on the Tea Party wave, and those are very different people. I think the ideologues within the party really were controlling the echo chamber, if you were, in the first weeks of the session, and I think the media was suddenly focused on it,” Nelson said.
Still, he thinks the big issues were handled well by session’s end and Nelson said that could lead to a path to victory for House Speaker Davy Carter, R-Cabot, if he chose to enter the Governor’s primary race against frontrunner Asa Hutchinson and challenger Curtis Coleman.
Nelson contends that Northwest Arkansas’ influence in a GOP primary could be diluted if U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton, R-Dardanelle, enters the U.S. Senate race.