Sen. Bledsoe re-elected; Rep. Ballinger, Rep. Leding elected to Senate

by Jeff Della Rosa (JDellaRosa@nwabj.com) 210 views 

Three state legislators won in their state Senate races in Northwest Arkansas on Tuesday (Nov. 6), according to unofficial results. Sen. Cecile Bledsoe, R-Rogers, was re-elected to serve a third term in her District 3 seat, while Rep. Bob Ballinger, R-Berryville, and Rep. Greg Leding, D-Fayetteville, will trade their House seats for ones in the Senate.

Bledsoe defeated Jon Comstock, D-Rogers, in the District 3 state Senate race. Bledsoe received 14,218 votes, or nearly 63% of the vote, and Comstock, who’s a former Benton County circuit judge, had 8,473 votes, or about 37% of the vote, unofficial results show.

“I’m grateful to the voters of Senate District 3, and it’s been a good night,” Bledsoe said. District 3 includes eastern Benton County and cities such as Lowell, Pea Ridge and Rogers.
“When I was out knocking on doors, people were very receptive. When I would see people at meetings and things like that, they said very nice things. So I was hopeful, and it just turned out well.”

Bledsoe was appreciative of her supporters and their votes were a “positive reinforcement of the things that I’ve done in Little Rock. It was a good night for me. I’m really excited. I’m very grateful, encouraged and pleased.”

Bledsoe said this will be her last campaign, and because of term limits, she will not be able to run again after this term is completed. Bledsoe is serving her second term in the state Senate, and she previously served three consecutive terms in the state House.

With 67 of 87 precincts reporting as of 12:30 a.m. Wednesday (Nov. 7), Ballinger was leading in the state Senate District 5 race with 67% of the vote, the results show. Ballinger received 15,702 votes; Jim Wallace, Democratic candidate who lives near Eureka Springs, had 6,887 votes, or 30% of the vote; and Lee Evans, Libertarian candidate of Uniontown, 751 votes, or 3% of the vote.

“I’m surprised by the margin, and it’s encouraging,” Ballinger said. “I’m blessed with a really good district with a lot of neat and incredible people. I’m blessed that I’ve had the opportunity to get to meet them, and now I’ve got to go out and keep my promises and go to work for them.”

District 5 includes Carroll, Crawford, northern Franklin, northwest Johnson, Madison, northern Sebastian and southern Washington counties and cities such as Alma, Berryville, Eureka Springs, Huntsville and West Fork.

Ballinger said the district has leaned Republican, “but not knowing what the climate was going to be like, what the turnout was going to be like, I really just didn’t anticipate…But it does look like it’s going to be a pretty good margin. Looking at it from a national perspective, and even a statewide perspective, there’s definitely some disappointments, but I feel like for our race, I’m happy and humbled with the opportunity to serve in the Senate and appreciate all those folks that came out a took a chance on me and voted for me.”

When asked if he’s spoken to his opponents, Ballinger said he hasn’t but explained that “Mr. Wallace has been nothing but a reasonable person through this campaign, and from all I’ve heard about him he seems like a really nice guy. And every conversation I’ve had with him has been cordial. My hope is that we’ll be able to work together and stay in communication and that I can represent him well as his Senator.”

This was Wallace’s first time to run for office, and he said he was unsure what to expect from the race or how his run compared to previous runs by a Democratic candidate in the district. He said the history of the district was limited because in 2010, redistricting changed it. He would like to see more polling on the races, and more media coverage on races outside of the Interstate 49 corridor.

“That would have been helpful to both me and my opponent, just to give more interest to what’s going on here,” said Wallace, who’s a studio artist. “It’s a fairly interesting layout because it wraps around I-49, from the Oklahoma border moving east and then up north to the Missouri border and creates sort of a band around four or five other districts. In that sense, it’s also immediately unusual as you move from the demographics of those districts to this district. The largest city in the district is Alma with a little less than 6,000 people, which is a very different kind of space than Fayetteville or Bentonville, Rogers and so on.”

Ballinger, a Berryville attorney, is serving his third term in the House and represents District 97, which includes portions of Carroll, Madison and Washington counties. Ballinger defeated incumbent Sen. Bryan King, R-Green Forest, in the primary in May.

“It’s amazing the amount of encouragement I’ve got. It’s extraordinary, and I am blessed by it, humbled and blessed. So, hopefully I can live up to their expectations. I look forward to going to work now.”

With all precincts reporting, Leding won the state Senate District 4 race, with 61% of the vote, according to unofficial results. Leding received 18,305 votes, while his opponent Dawn Clemence, R-Fayetteville, had 11,496 votes, or nearly 39% of the vote. District 4 includes central Washington County and cities such as Farmington, Fayetteville, and Greenland.

Incumbent Sen. Uvalde Lindsey, D-Fayetteville, is not seeking re-election. Leding is serving his fourth term in the state House and represents District 86, which includes northwest Fayetteville.

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