NEA Political Animals Playing The Waiting Game As 2016 Season Approaches

by Michael Wilkey ([email protected]) 135 views 

There may be 492 days (as of Sunday) left until the 2016 general election, but very few candidates and prospective candidates have announced their bids so far.

“Why is everyone waiting?” NEA Political Animals co-chair Andrea Allen said in an interview last week on the lack of announcements so far in the 2016 campaign.

Allen, a Republican who works as a deputy chief of staff and district director to Rep. Rick Crawford, R-Jonesboro, said the decision to run could be like “dominoes falling” in the future especially if candidates announce for some of the higher-profile offices.

Allen serves as a co-chair of the NEA Political Animals group with Democrat L.J. Bryant.

Bryant, who ran unsuccessfully for land commissioner in 2010 and a state house seat two years later, said he believes Democrats can be successful in spite of two poor electoral cycles.

Bryant said both political and demographic shifts could one day put the Third District into the Democratic column, as well as Democrats having a strong base in the Delta and the Little Rock area.

However, Democrats have not held the Third District seat since 1966 when Republican John Paul Hammerschmidt defeated Democratic Rep. James Trimble. Hammerschmidt, who held the seat until 1993, passed away earlier this year.

The 2016 ballot in Arkansas should be jam-packed, and thanks to the Arkansas legislature, primary season campaigning will begin later this year.

Arkansas lawmakers moved the primary dates to March 1, 2016 and the filing period has been advanced to November 2015 as a result.

In addition to a presidential race, voters will decide a United States Senate seat, four U.S. House seats, 100 state House seats and 17 state Senate races.

As of Thursday, only four members of the state House – Reps. Prissy Hickerson, R-Texarkana, Nate Bell, I-Mena, Justin Harris, R-West Fork and Micah Neal, R-Springdale – have announced they will not seek another term.

Sen. David Johnson, D-Little Rock has also said he will not run in 2016, but will instead run for a district judge office in Pulaski County.

Republicans hold all six Congressional seats and have overwhelming majorities in the state legislature.

As for judicial races, there are two state Supreme Court races up next year – Chief Justice Jim Hannah and Associate Justice Paul Danielson.

Danielson announced earlier this year that he will not seek another term in office. Circuit Judge and former GOP state Rep. and Sen. Shawn Womack of Mountain Home has announced he will run for the seat held by Danielson.

Allen said Womack has campaigned everywhere and has worked hard to get his name out to voters.

There are also four Court of Appeals judges who are set to be on the ballot – Cliff Hoofman, who was appointed in District 2, Position 2 and cannot run again; Mike Kinard in District 5; Rita W. Gruber in District 6, Position 1 and Waymond Brown in District 7.

Both Allen and Bryant said the high profile office on the ballot in 2016 will be for the White House.

There are 14 Republicans and 5 Democrats who have so far announced.

Gov. Chris Christie, R-NJ, announced his bid for the White House Tuesday while aides close to Gov. Scott Walker, R-Wisc., said that Walker planned to submit paperwork Thursday to seek the presidency. According to published reports, Walker is expected to announce his bid on July 13. Former Democratic Sen. Jim Webb of Virginia became the latest Democrat to announce a White House run.

Two of the Presidential candidates – Republican Mike Huckabee and Democrat Hillary Clinton – have ties to the state while several others including Gov. Bobby Jindal, R-Louisiana, and former Gov. Rick Perry, R-Texas, are from neighboring states.

Clinton and another presidential candidate – Republican Donald Trump – will be in Arkansas this month. Clinton will speak at the Jefferson-Jackson dinner July 18, while Trump will be the speaker at the Reagan-Rockefeller dinner the day before.

Allen said Trump provides a “rock star” quality for the GOP’s largest event of the year, while Bryant said he does not believe Trump will be able to keep his momentum going.

Allen said voters should not discount Huckabee, especially if he does well in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada.

“He could shoot up the list and really surprise everyone,” Allen said of Huckabee.

Allen said the national polls may not mean much early in the game, noting candidates are looking at the first states for momentum and support.

The primary in Arkansas is March 1 and both Allen and Bryant said they are working to bring presidential candidates to Northeast Arkansas.

Several of the early contenders including Gov. Chris Christie, R-NJ, and former Gov. Mitt Romney, R-Massachusetts – who decided not to run in 2016 – campaigned in the region during the 2014 campaign.

Bryant said while recent polling by Talk Business and Politics shows Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton trailing both Huckabee and a generic Republican by between 15 and 20 points in Arkansas, a matter of a few points increase could help Democrats in down-ballot races.

“If it (Democratic vote in November 2016) goes from 37% to say 42%, it will help the legislative candidates,” Bryant said.

However, Allen said issues like the economic and personal security put the GOP on a “path to win.”