I called it quits early last night, so now comes the mop-up on races we’ve followed here previously:

  • PRESIDENT: Joe Biden easily led the Arkansas Democratic presidential primary with 40 percent of the vote on his way to a rousing victory across Super Tuesday states, save a few, including California, where he also is running stronger than originally predicted. National media say it’s now a two-man horse race. I think it’s over. Biden will be the Democratic Party nominee. Bernie Sanders can’t get to the convention with a majority of delegates, maybe not even a plurality. The rest will coalesce behind Biden. The task will be to shut Joe up in hopes of holding down the gaffe factor. Republicans mouthpieces who’ve been touting Bernie now want him to run as a third-party candidate. Of course they do. Michael Bloomberg’s millions and mayoral support, notably from Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott Jr., produced little. He got  16 percent in Pulaski County, less even than Bernie’s 20 percent. He should get out and throw his millions into defeating Trump. UPDATE: A couple of hours later, Bloomberg did just that, dropped out and endorsed Biden.
  • ARKANSAS SUPREME COURT: Barbara Webb won a convincing 53-46 victory over Judge Chip Welch. She ran as a Republican and it worked. A good measure of Welch’s avoidance of party labels were the robust margins given Webb in black voting precincts in such places as Little Rock, Jefferson County and Phillips County. A party identifier would have helped Welch. Also helpful was the $225,000 (and I believe it will prove to be more) spent in Republican dark money for multiple mailers and radio ads. There was also Republican text messaging for Webb. A complaint has been lodged with the Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission on Webb’s use of partisan endorsements and acceptance of tens of thousands in cash contributions from Republican PACs. It won’t change the outcome of the race, but even a modest rebuke of Webb for flouting the non-partisan strictures in the state judicial code could be useful in guiding races in years ahead. Otherwise, the Arkansas Supreme Court — and many other benches — will increasingly carry the Republican brand. Three of seven Arkansas Supreme Court justices now are effectively declared Republicans — Webb, Rhonda Wood and Shawn Womack.
  • CASINO POLITICS: There’s a fine mess in Pope County on account of the lingering controversy of Amendment 100, which authorized a casino there. It’s embroiled in legal disputes, but election results reflect resistance to the general idea, even if the terms of the state amendment make it difficult to stop the project. Consider: Pope County voters defeated a slew of bond issue proposals for civic projects in expectation of coming casino taxes. Voters appear to have defeated incumbent Circuit Judge William Pearson. Other issues may have figured in James Dunham’s victory, but Pearson is the judge who ruled (properly I think) that a local ordinance requiring a vote before a casino project could be approved was unconstitutional. Even bigger news occurred in races for Quorum Court. Anti-casino voters bloodied pro-casino voters. Four of the eight JPs who endorsed the Cherokee Nation casino plan were defeated — Caleb Moore, Reuben Brown, Ray Black and Ernie Enchelmayer. Two anti-casino JPs, Bill Sparks and Joe Pearson, defeated pro-casino challengers. In open seats, a candidate who was unhappy about the lack of a local referendum, Alan George, won a race for a seat vacated by a pro-casino voter. Some races won’t be decided until fall. But for now, Pope County appears to be looking at a majority of anti-casino votes on the Quorum Court come January. Maybe Russellville will step in and provide the necessary casino support for a permit to be issued should the issue not get resolved by the Racing Commission before then.
  • ASA’S COATTAILS. An all-out effort by Gov. Asa Hutchinson to protect Sen. John Cooper fell far short. He was defeated by Dan Sullivan, a foe of the Medicaid expansion.
  • STATE HOUSE DISTRICT 34: The race to fill the seat of the late John Walker has now been definitively decided. Joy Springer, who won a one-vote victory over Ryan Davis in the Democratic primary to serve the rest of this year, smashed an independent, Roderick Talley, in the general election to complete the term. Then, in a rematch with Davis for a term to begin next year, she won easily, with 64 percent of the vote.
  • JUDGES: The huge slate of judicial races, owing to retirements, will leave many runoffs statewide that will be decided in November. In Pulaski County, Hugh Finkelstein will face Casey Tucker; Shanice Johnson will face Lott Rolfe; Andy Ballard will face Shawn Johnson, and Amy Dunn Johnson will face Gary Rogers. Noted:  Long-time incumbent Little Rock Traffic Judge Vic Fleming slipped by Peg Egan for re-election, with 51.1 percent of the vote. I haven’t done a careful review, but my impression is that women fared well across the ballot in local races yesterday.

UPDATE: One other circuit judge race of note, in Garland County. Judge Wade Naramore, an incumbent, finished second in a three-race and will be in a runoff with Cecilia Dyer. She had 35.7 percent to his 33.7. Naramore in 2016 was acquitted of a negligent homicide charge in the hot car death of his infant son, forgotten in the backseat of his car on a drive to work. The case was hotly controversial in Garland County. He was suspended as a judge while the case was pending, then reinstated on acquittal, but the Supreme Court ordered that he no longer hear dependency and neglect cases.

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