ARKANSAS BRIGHT SPOT: A Democratic legislative victory in Fayetteville.

As results continue to trickle in, the national media has realized that Donald Trump was blowing smoke in claiming a sweeping Republican victory in last Tuesday’s election. The U.S. Senate losses will be smaller than originally thought thanks to Democratic pickups in Arizona and Nevada; House Democratic gains seem likely to be between 35 and 40 seats, with some agonizing close losses elsewhere. Democrats made gains in governorships and legislatures, too. But then, there’s Arkansas.

Republicans again swept the statewide and congressional offices in Arkansas and lost no ground in the legislature, retaining 26 Senate and 76 House seats. They also claimed a gain of 43 seats in county offices statewide and greater Democratic losses counting seats that went to independents.  (The GOP news release recounting victories did severely underreport losses in the U.S. House at 27.)


The Democratic Party had a take, too, and I liked Chairman Michael John Gray’s tone, despite having not much to work with. He naturally focused on two Democratic legislative pickups, the first since 2012. They were Denise Garner, who defeated incumbent GOP Rep. Charlie Collins in Fayetteville, and Megan Godfrey who beat Rep. Jeff Williams in Springdale.

Gray chose to see a promising future.


As our cities stayed Democratic, our rural towns and counties drifted further to the Republican Party. This divide will only grow in the coming elections, unless we commit ourselves to doing the work. Our message must be distanced from a national identity of “resistance” and instead be defined by the willingness to do the work of representation.

It will be hard, but it isn’t out of reach.

Gray used his own race for re-election to the House as an example.

Look at Representative Michael John Gray’s race. He fell just 98 votes short of re-election. Though the loss hurts, it shows us a message and a way forward.

President Trump won District 47 by over 2,000 votes, and his popularity has only grown since the 2016 election. Had Gray not done the work in the district by not asking the community to buy into his representation, the race would have long been out of reach.

We can throw up our hands and say those 98 voters are not worth it. We can write off the district and all districts like it as “unwinnable.” And there are many in this party, both locally and nationally, that think we should.

Anyone that says that is wrong. If we had applied that attitude to District 84 and District 89, we wouldn’t have Representative Garner and Representative Godfrey.

Those 98 voters are winnable and worth fighting for. The same can be said of the 118 voters that chose the Republican challenger over Representative Scott Baltz in District 61. If the Republicans decided to fold-up shop when they were in our position back in 2010, they never would have found themselves back in power.

The clear lesson from the midterm should be to continue the work. So many of these statehouse races were narrow margins—8 of the races we lost were decided by less than 1,000 votes. We will win those races in 2020 if we do the work now of engaging those voters. If we learn their concerns and commit to offering solutions, we will see the success of our work.

Perhaps. I was disheartened by several races in Pulaski County where excellent candidates campaigned energetically, built organizations, raised money and offered clear distinctions from some particularly undistinguished Republican incumbents in west Little Rock, Maumelle and northern Pulaski County. Votes in the high 40s were not embarrassing, but nonetheless indicative of the hill Democrats have to climb particularly in a heavily voted mid-term stirred in part by disgust with the national leader of the Republican Party.