EYES ON NOVEMBER
Candidates in Arkansas' top races marched toward the November general election after gubernatorial hopefuls Asa Hutchinson and Mike Ross cruised to easy victories in the Republican and Democratic primaries. Democratic U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor and Republican U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton advanced unopposed in the contest for Pryor's post.
Cotton and Pryor each issued statements within moments of the polls closing Tuesday night saying they looked forward to the November election. Pryor had been viewed as one of the most vulnerable incumbents in the Senate, and outside groups supporting each of the candidates have already poured millions of dollars into advertising into the state.
Tuesday's primary marked the first time voters were required to show identification at the polls, under a measure passed last year by the Republican-led Legislature over a veto by Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe. No major problems were reported, but a high-profile mishap didn't go unnoticed. Hutchinson was delayed briefly while voting early on Monday: He forgot to bring a state or federal ID with him to the polling place. A spokeswoman later said that Hutchinson thought the incident was a "little bit of an inconvenience" but still believes the law is necessary.
PSST. THERE ARE WASHINGTON INSIDERS
They may not tout it in Arkansas, but the fall election ballot will feature several candidates with Washington experience. Both Ross and Hutchinson spent time in the nation's capital as congressmen, while Hutchinson also worked in the Bush administration and Ross was once a driver for Bill Clinton when Clinton was running for Arkansas governor in 1982.
James Lee Witt, running for Congress in south Arkansas, was Clinton's Federal Emergency Management Agency director; U.S. Rep. Tim Griffin is giving up what was considered a safe seat to run for lieutenant governor so he can spend more time with his family; and French Hill, the Republican nominee for Griffin's old seat, previously served as senior economic policy adviser to President George H.W. Bush and served as deputy assistant secretary of the U.S. Treasury.
MIXED RESULTS ON PRIVATE OPTION
It's hard to say what Tuesday's election means for Arkansas' method of using federal money to buy health insurance for its poorer residents. Several incumbents were challenged from the right by candidates who believe any form of Medicaid expansion equals support for President Barack Obama's health care law.
One main backer of the "private option" Medicaid plan was forced into a runoff and another supporter was defeated outright Tuesday, but another proponent advanced to the November general election despite a challenge over his support for the plan derided by Republicans.
In key state House races, two representatives who opposed the private option lost, another won and a proponent of the law won.
The private option passed the Legislature this year with one vote to spare in the House and none to spare in the Senate.
Voters settled all but one of the statewide contests. In addition to both parties picking nominees for governor, Republicans settled all but one position in their slate for November.
Griffin, the current congressman, will be the GOP nominee for lieutenant governor, Saline County Clerk Dennis Milligan advanced in the treasurer's race and Andrea Lea is the party nominee for treasurer. Griffin and Lea's margins were around 2-to-1.
Former prosecutor Leslie Rutledge just missed winning the Republican nomination for attorney general outright. She'll face David Sterling, an attorney in private practice, in a runoff June 10.