Notes from the Campaign Trail: Election night nuggets

by Roby Brock ( 737 views 

With almost all of Election Night 2018 in the books, it’s time to comb through the results and spotlight interesting observations about election trends.

Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson won with more than 65% of the vote in his re-election bid to Democrat Jared Henderson’s 32% and Libertarian Mark West’s just 2.91%. Other Democrats running for constitutional offices received anywhere between 32.85% to 36.46%, suggesting that the Democratic floor in Arkansas is somewhere in the 32-36% range – not a good trend for the party out of power, but consistent with what we’ve seen with Democratic Presidential candidates in Arkansas.

Hutchinson won at least 68 of Arkansas’ 75 counties on Tuesday night, a very strong showing. Henderson won the following six counties: Chicot, Crittenden, Jefferson, Lee, Pulaski, and St. Francis. Results were not in for Drew and Phillips counties yet. In Pulaski County, the vote for Henderson was 69,058 (51%) to Hutchinson’s 62,369 (46%). Hutchinson’s biggest county for votes was Pulaski County, but Benton County – his home county – was also particularly strong providing the governor with 52,673 votes.

Also, Mark West’s flirtation with 3% for the Libertarians has a long-shot chance of still happening (there are a few precincts and ballots outstanding). If he achieves 3%, the Libertarians will not have to go the signature route to qualify as a political party in Arkansas in the 2020 election. If he doesn’t achieve 3%, the Libertarian Party may need to take a hard look at how it fields and runs candidates in the future.

State Auditor Andrea Lea is poised to be the Republican statewide candidate who received the most votes on Election Night. She earned 612,262 votes as of last count in her lopsided win over a Libertarian challenger. Her vote total was greater than any of the other GOP statewide constitutional office winners.

Obviously, the Second Congressional District was the closest Congressional race of the night with Rep. French Hill, R-Little Rock, defeating Democrat Clarke Tucker by a 52-46 margin, a six point victory. The next closest race – and it wasn’t that close – was U.S. Rep. Steve Womack’s, R-Rogers, 65-33% win over Josh Mahony. U.S. Rep. Bruce Westerman,  R-Hot Springs, won 67-31% against Hayden Shamel and U.S. Rep. Rick Crawford, R-Jonesboro, won 70-28% over Chintan Desai.

In the Second District, Hill improved his performance in a midterm over 2014, when he first ran for the seat in that midterm election against North Little Rock Mayor Pat Hays, the Democratic nominee. As the stats below show, Hill increased his numbers in every county of the district between then and now except Pulaski County, and in that county, he didn’t go very far backward – just 897 votes fewer than four years ago.

Tucker needed to overperform in Pulaski County and cut his losses in the donut counties of the district, specifically Saline, Faulkner and White. He did overperform in three of those four counties, especially in Pulaski County with the mayoral and legislative races. Alas, with Hill not moving backward from his previous performance, the math just didn’t get Tucker over the hump.

Hill 2018 vs. 2014
Conway: 3,907 vs. 3,290 (+617)
Faulkner: 23,613 vs. 20,213 (+3,400)
Perry: 2,566 vs. 2,056 (+510)
Pulaski: 52,355 vs. 53,252 (-897)
Saline: 28,273 vs. 25,607 (+2,666)
Van Buren: 4,518 vs. 3,570 (+948)
White: 16,528 vs. 15,085 (+1,443)

Tucker (2018) vs. Hays (2014)
Conway: 2,443 vs. 2,665 (-222)
Faulkner: 13,649 vs. 11,643 (+2,006)
Perry: 1,046 vs. 1,251 (-205)
Pulaski: 79,899 vs. 69,060 (+10,839)
Saline: 12,310 vs. 11,566 (+744)
Van Buren: 1,595 vs. 1,903 (-308)
White: 4,807 vs. 5,389 (-582)

As TB&P contributor Robert Coon of Impact Management Group once wrote: “CD2 is the old girlfriend that the Democrats just can’t get over. I’m not going to say she’s totally moved on, but her interests have definitely changed.” It’s a Republican district for sure now, if there was any doubt.

Finally, all four of Arkansas’ Republican House members will return to Washington D.C. in the minority, which none of them has ever been a part of. It may make Congress a little less fun and it will certainly mean that Womack loses his chairmanship of the powerful House Budget Committee in the next session.

Casinos are coming to Arkansas in some way, shape, fashion or form. For certain, Oaklawn in Hot Springs and Southland in West Memphis are poised to become full-fledged casino centers.

Issue 4, the casino amendment, enjoyed overwhelming support in racking up a 54-46% statewide victory. Overall, it was approved in 64 of 75 counties (Drew and Phillips counties are still out). In the counties where it was rejected – Benton, Boone, Carroll, Cleburne, Cleveland, Independence, Stone, Washington, and White counties – the margins were relatively close. For instance, in Benton County it lost by less than 1,000 votes out of more than 71,000 cast on that measure.

What about the four counties where casinos could be located? Those include Crittenden (Southland), Garland (Oaklawn), Jefferson and Pope counties. Here are the ‘for’ and ‘against’ numbers in those counties:

Crittenden – 7,680 FOR to 3,918 AGAINST
Garland – 16,256 FOR to 13,309 AGAINST
Jefferson – 12,720 FOR to 6,995 AGAINST
Pope – 7,053 FOR to 10,845 AGAINST

Also of note, an ordinance in Pope County that would require a local option election to allow a casino in the county passed with 70% support. Unofficially, the results were 12,192 ‘for’ to 5,722 ‘against.’ There is some discussion about how binding the ordinance is to meet the requirements of Issue 4, which only requires the signature of a county judge and a mayor to permit bids for casinos in the Pope and Jefferson counties. Expect some legal wranglings in the future on top of the political juggling that would be required to get a casino off the ground in Pope County. Jefferson County, with its local support, may be a more fertile starting point.

There was a lot of curiosity about how the Arkansas Supreme Court runoff would play out. Would the independent expenditure (IE) ads targeting Justice Courtney Goodson work again? Would the IE spending to boost David Sterling pay dividends? In the end, no.

Most likely, either voters have already registered their opinions on the “scandal” of Goodson’s Italian cruise and campaign donations or her title of “Supreme Court Justice” was enough to distinguish herself against a competitor without a title. Probably, a little bit of both, but more helpful to have a title next to your name. Remember in 2016 when Goodson was challenged by Dan Kemp for Chief Justice, he was running as a sitting judge and had the title “Judge Dan Kemp” on the ballot.

Goodson carried at least 65 of the state’s 75 counties. Sterling carried only Cleburne, Lincoln, Montgomery, Ouachita, Saline, Scott, Stone, and White. Drew and Phillips counties’ returns are incomplete.

Editor’s note: ‘Notes from the Campaign Trail’ is a compilation of various political insider tidbits. It is sponsored by Campbell Ward Consulting|Communications.