Frank Glidewell won the special election for the state Senate seat representing Fort Smith, and also will face Rep. Mat Pitsch, R-Fort Smith, in the June 19 runoff in the regular election cycle for the Senate seat.
In the House District 76 race, Cindy Crawford won in a close race against Kelly Proctor-Pierce in the GOP primary.
Unofficial vote totals showed Glidewell with 65.07% (6,719 votes) of the votes and Denny Altes with 34.93% (3,607 votes) of the votes in the special election for the Senate District 8 seat. If the vote stands, Glidewell will briefly serve in the Arkansas Senate until the regular election winner is sworn in. No candidate from other parties filed for the special election.
In the regular election, unofficial vote totals had Glidewell on top with 39.84% (4,189 votes) of the votes, Pitsch with 34.58% (3,636 votes), and Altes with 25.58% (2,689 votes). If the vote totals stand, Glidewell and Pitsch will face off in the June 19 runoff election. The runoff winner will face Libertarian candidate William Hyman in the general election.
Glidewell told Talk Business & Politics he thanked his family and friends who supported him. Asked if he will seek Altes’ endorsement, Glidewell noted: “I think I’ll leave that up to Denny. Denny has been my friend for a long time. If he wants to support me, I sure would appreciate it.”
During his upcoming short stint as senator thanks to the special election, Glidewell said one of his goals would be to bring more light to what he said is “corruption” in the state’s Medicaid system.
Pitsch said his campaign would “circle the wagons this evening and look at the numbers tomorrow” to determine their strengths and weaknesses among the precincts. He also thanked the more than 17,000 Sebastian County voters who came out in much higher numbers than expected for a non-presidential primary election.
Talk Business & Politics was unable to reach Altes.
THE RACE SETUP, CANDIDATE BACKGROUNDS
A three way race for the general election and the special election were the result of Sen. Jake Files, R-Fort Smith, resigning after pleading guilty to federal charges, including bank fraud.
Altes served in the House of Representatives from 1999-2003 and represented Senate District 13 from 2003 to 2011. He returned to the House of Representatives in 2011 and represented the 76th District until January 2015. Altes has also served two stints with the Sebastian County Quorum Court. Altes resigned in early 2017 as the state’s drug director. The drug director oversees and coordinates the activities of the Arkansas State Drug Abuse and Prevention Coordinating Council and is responsible for coordination of all alcohol and drug abuse prevention/treatment initiatives in Arkansas.
Glidewell served two years as Sebastian County Judge, and 12 years as a member of the county’s Quorum Court. He also served six years in the Arkansas House, and is a veteran of the Air National Guard. He’s been in the electrical contracting business for 35 years.
Pitsch, a former instructor at the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith, was elected to the Arkansas House of Representatives in 2015 (District 76) and was named House Majority Leader in 2016, during the fiscal session. Pitsch has served on the House Transportation Committee and the Agriculture, Forestry and Economic Development Committee. During the 91st General Assembly, Pitsch was a sponsor of the Tax Reform and Relief Act of 2017, one of Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s primary objectives for the session. He also is a consultant to the Western Arkansas Planning and Development District (WAPDD) for the Western Arkansas Intermodal Authority.
Pitsch, a sitting legislator, was not allowed by state law to run in the special election. Gov. Hutchinson set the May 22 primary as the primary for a special election. The special election is set for Aug. 14, but without candidates from other parties filing, the winner of the May 22 special election primary wins the race.
HOUSE DISTRICT 76 RACE
Crawford had 51.11% (2,296 votes) of the vote, and Proctor-Pierce had 48.89% (2,196 votes), according to the Sebastian County Clerk’s office.
There are no candidates from other parties, meaning that Crawford wins the House seat if the vote stands.
“I am so proud of my team. I am so thankful for everyone that voted for me and put their trust in me to represent this district,” Crawford told Talk Business & Politics.
She is traveling to Little Rock on Wednesday to begin the process of learning the ropes. She said she has already visited with other state senators and house members to “get their wisdom, and I’ve had a couple who said they would take me under their wings.”
Her primary goal, she said, is to focus on the different factors burdening the state’s foster care system.
“I really want to look into the foster care crisis,” Crawford said.