November 2014 is going to be an election for the ages in Arkansas.
Pop the champagne for TV stations. Millions will be spent on the races for U.S. Senate and governor.
Nothing less than the next couple of decades of the direction of Arkansas policy are hanging in the balance. Can the populist Democratic trend hang on? Or is Arkansas as red as Oklahoma, Mississippi and Alabama?
Mike Ross, who faces Asa Hutchinson, a three-time loser in statewide races but now a bare frontrunner, and Sen. Mark Pryor, facing extremist ideologue Tom Cotton, carry that big burden. They are, as the saying goes, work horses, not show horses.
U.S/Congress? More fun.
Looks like patrician French Hill will face can-do Democrat Patrick Henry Hays in the 2nd District. Lots of cross-currents there and a real potential for Democrats to regain the seat.
In the 4th District, it’s too bad for Democrat James Lee Witt that Bruce Westerman survived New York invader Tommy Moll, with his inherited Arkansas wealth and Club for Growth money. Because good ol’ boy Witt could clean Moll’s clock in the 4th District. Westerman is a good ol’ boy, too. It will be harder.
GAMESMANSHIP PRIZE: Karl Rove’s boy Tim Griffin swept the GOP primary for lt. gov. as expected, and bullying, big-headed vote cager that he is, nobody will outwork, outraise or outgame him. Outethics and outsmart, yes. First he wanted press to be credentialed to go to a pizza joint to see his watch party. He stayed in D.C. But he managed to carve about a full minute on Fox 16’s 9 p.m. newscast for a nothing race for a nothing office because he assembled a crowd of 14 yahoos (reminiscent of the GOP riot that disrupted the Bush-Gore recount) to wave sounds and scream behind the Fox 16 reporter. Good TV. Sound and fury. Signifying nothing.
OBAMACARE NEWS: Mixed bag. Rep. Terry Rice has defeated a pro-private option voter, Fireball Bruce Holland, to replace him in the state Senate. But Bill Sample, another pro-PO voter, survived a Tea Party challenge. Finger-in-the-wind Sen. Missy Irvin also survived a Tea Party challenge. All the marbles could be in northern Arkansas in a runoff between PO architect John Burris and Nobamacare Scott Flippo in a runoff for departing Sen. Johnny Key’s seat, where independent money is already flooding in for Flippo. Will Gov. Mike Beebe organize a Democrats for Burris team to work Mountain Home and other suburbs of Chicago to carry Burris over the line? It might be the most watched race in the whole damn nation in a couple of weeks.
On the House side, Republican Rep. Hutch Hutchison, another PO vote in 2013 who flip-flopped in 2014, got slaughtered by a tea bagger in his Republican primary. The good news is that a Democrat is waiting in the wings who could take this farm belt seat back to the party in which it belongs. But the House is on the ragged edge of the 75 percent vote needed to continue PO, too. Every vote counts.
Jim Sorvillo, a tea bagging WLR Republican, eked out a victory over a relatively moderate Republican, Pat Hays, for Allen Kerr’s seat. That creates an opportunity for Democrat John Adams, but also another opportunity for an anti-PO vote if the Repub wins.
* GLOBETROTTER GONE: Remember Rep. Fred Smith, the former Harlem Globetrotter who was in the legislature, then out on account of a legal problem, then back in? He’s gone again — defeated by a solid Democratic candidate and state trooper.
* CRY FOR SALINE COUNTY: Pulaski’s suburban neighbor, once a Democratic stronghold thanks in part to powerful labor unions in big industries, is no longer such a thing. They voted 4-1 Republican and, get this, backed fat cat Little Rock banker French Hill for Congress over Saline Countian Ann Clemmer, who had a disorganized campaign marred by the Alex Reed financial scandal. (And when is the secretary of state ever going to clean up THAT?) Recently accused felon Bruce Pennington, the former sheriff, did finish dead last in the sheriff’s primary.
* MOST TERRIBLE/WONDERFUL NEWS: Dennis Milligan, the Saline County goofball and Dunkin’ Donuts extortionist, defeated Duncan Baird to be the Republican nominee for state treasurer. Terrible: Are Republican voters really that nuts? Did they buy an Obamacare appeal such as Milligan threw out for an office in which the issue isn’t relevant? They favored a clown over an ethical, diligent and financially savvy good guy? The answers appear to be yes and yes. Wonderful: Democrats have a tremendous candidate, Hot Springs Director Karen Sealy Garcia, a Fortune 500 corporation accountant, who’s FAR more qualified than the Branson clown, If resume matters.
* CRY THE BELOVED ARKANSAS: Looks like a runoff is in the cards for GOP nomination for attorney general. There’s extremist David Sterling, who’ll undoubtedly benefit from still more anonymous sleazy gun nut money. And Leslie Rutledge, in the lead, the Christian, anti-abortion gun-toting, federal supremacy defying candidate who’s sold her integrity to do whatever it takes to win this nomination. Sad, sad, sad. Democrat Nate Steel looks better all the time.
* JUDGESHIPS: H.G. Foster prevailed over Doralee Chandler in Conway. Also in Faulkner, Troy Braswell barely prevailed over Don Winningham and Mike Murphy eked out a win over Amy Brazil. Judge David Clark survived. Braswell, Clark and Chandler all enjoyed big money from Michael Morton, the Fort Smith nursing home magnate whose contributions to defrocked judge Mike Maggio have set off one of the great scandals of the season.
* DARK DARK MONEY: Appeals Court Judge Robin Wynne took a 52-48 win over Tim Cullen in a race for an open Supreme Court seat. Time will tell if this is a bad outcome. But it is certainly bad if the difference was spelled by a huge sum of anonymous money from Virginia that funded underhanded and dishonest advertising against Cullen — ads that Wynne never adequately repudiated and election night refused to discuss. Shame on him.
* SMALL BLESSING: Randy Alexander, one of the most extreme of the extreme Religious Right members of the GOP House delegation, lost a primary race to Lance Eads. I don’t know Eads. He couldn’t possibly be worse. Davy Carter made a contribution to his campaign.