Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump is expected to win Arkansas in Tuesday's election, and leaders for the major political parties disagree on whether Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton will run stronger here than President Barack Obama did in past elections.
Doyle Webb, chairman of the Republican Party of Arkansas, speaks Saturday, Aug. 6, 2016, during the Republican Party of Arkansas convention in the John Q. Hammons Center in Rogers.
Vince Insalaco, chairman of the Democratic Party of Arkansas, is shown with Tatiana Roitman Mann in this file photo.
Pulaski County voting locations
How to obtain a sample ballot
They also disagree about how their parties will fare in legislative races.
On the ballot Tuesday are races for president and vice president; a U.S. Senate seat; four congressional seats; 17 state Senate positions; 100 state House of Representatives posts; and a state Court of Appeals position; plus four ballot measures. Numerous local government offices also are on the ballot.
Election officials for Republican Secretary of State Mark Martin have estimated that 70 percent of the state's 1.75 million registered voters will cast ballots in this year's election. That would be the largest share of the state's registered voters to turn out since 1992, when then-Arkansas Democratic Gov. Bill Clinton was elected president and 72.13 percent of registered voters cast ballots.
In the 2012 general election, 66.65 percent, or 1.078 million, of the state's 1.6 million registered voters cast ballots.
Late Friday afternoon, the secretary of state's office reported that 478,843 Arkansans had cast ballots in early voting, which started Oct. 24. Early voting continues Monday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. On Tuesday, the polls will be open from 7:30 a.m. until 7:30 p.m.
Doyle Webb, chairman of the Republican Party of Arkansas, predicts that Trump will carry the state with at least 60 percent of the vote.
"I think they know Hillary, and she is not Bill Clinton," Webb said of voters. "She will get a lower percentage of vote than I think Barack Obama even got in the state. We'll see. ... We have two imperfect candidates."
In 2012, Obama lost in Arkansas to Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, who received 60.6 percent of the vote to Obama's 36.9 percent. In 2008, Obama lost in the state to Republican presidential nominee John McCain, who received 58.7 percent of the vote to Obama's 38.9 percent.
Hillary Clinton is former first lady of the U.S. and Arkansas, a former U.S. secretary of state and a former U.S. senator from New York. Trump is a New York real estate magnate and reality TV star.
Vince Insalaco, chairman of the Democratic Party of Arkansas, said: "I think Hillary will do better than President Obama.
"My goal for her from the very beginning was between 40 [percent] and 42 [percent] in Arkansas and, if she does that, that's a six-point climb, and I'll feel very, very good about that," he said.
"But Mr. Webb, she is going to be the next president of the United States and having a president of the United States who knows where the Pink Tomato Festival is and has been to it a half-dozen times, I'm for it," Insalaco said.
"Talking about having that wind at our back to help us rebuild our party, I'm really excited about that."
In response, Webb said, "While it's true that Hillary Clinton attended the Pink Tomato Festival in the past, if she were to visit today, the Bradley County she once knew, along with our entire state, would be politically unrecognizable.
"Now most of the local officials in Bradley County are Republican as in many other counties around the state. She's aligned herself with the liberal policies of Barack Obama, and it is clear that Arkansans do not hold those same values," he said.
In the past few elections, Republicans have made historic gains in state and federal offices in Arkansas by linking Democratic candidates to Obama. Republicans hold all six congressional seats and all seven of the state's constitutional offices.
The Republicans have controlled both chambers of the state Legislature since 2013, after they stripped majority control of the House and Senate in the November 2012 election for the first time since Reconstruction.
The House has 62 Republicans, 34 Democrats and one independent -- Rep. Nate Bell of Mena. Three seats are vacant because of the resignations of state Reps. Bill Gossage, R-Ozark, and Kelley Linck, R-Flippin, to take state government jobs, and the death of state Rep. Sheilla Lampkin, D-Monticello.
Republicans aim to win more legislative seats, while Democrats seek to keep their numbers steady.
"We have 65 chairs for our House caucus, and I anticipate having to buy more chairs for them to sit when they come to meet here," Webb said, referring to the state Republican office in Little Rock.
"I think that the House Republican caucus will get to 70 or more when the election is finished."
Insalaco said, "My goal from the very beginning was to hold on to what we had, whether we lose a couple and pick up a couple ... and that's still going to be our goal, and I really think that's what's going to happen.
"We'll have to wait and see if we get our voters turned out," he said.
Forty-six Republican House candidates and 21 Democratic House candidates are unopposed in Tuesday's election.
Democrats and Republicans are vying for 22 House seats. Democrats, Republicans and Libertarians are dueling for two other seats. In one seat, the candidates are a Republican, a Democrat and an independent.
Republicans and Libertarians are jousting for five House seats, while Democrats and Libertarians are sparring for two House seats, and a Republican and independent candidate are running for one seat.
House Republican leader Matt Pitsch of Fort Smith said, "We are fighting to hold on to the seats we have." He declined to make projections about particular races.
House Democratic leader Michael John Gray of Augusta said if the state's Democrats hold on to 35 House seats in Tuesday's election, it's going to be "a good day for us." He also declined to predict legislative races.
Insalaco said he believes that Little Rock Democrat Susan Inman has a shot at ousting Rep. Jim Sorvillo, R-Little Rock, and North Little Rock Democrat Victoria Leigh has a chance to defeat North Little Rock Republican Carlton Wing. Leigh and Wing are competing for the House seat held by departing Rep. Donnie Copeland, R-North Little Rock.
Jonesboro Democrat Nate Looney's challenge of Republican Rep. Brandt Smith of Jonesboro "will be very tight. It will be a half-point or a point [difference]. It is amazing how close some of these races are with the thousands of votes," Insalaco said.
Webb countered with predictions that the Republican candidates would win.
Morgan Democrat Bill Rahn, Democrat Dorothy Hall of the Cross Roads community near Sheridan, and Arkadelphia Democrat Richard Bright have run good campaigns against Republican Reps. Mark Lowery of Maumelle, Mike Holcomb of the Sulphur Springs community near Pine Bluff, and Richard Womack of Arkadelphia, respectively, Insalaco said.
Eventually, Democrats are going to win the seats now held by Rep. Rebecca Petty, R-Rogers, and departing Rep. Micah Neal, R-Springdale, because of the growing diversity of the districts, Insalaco said. Petty is in a rematch with Rogers Democrat Grimsley Graham. Neal's successor will either be Springdale Democrat Irvin Camacho or Springdale Republican Jeff Williams.
"I hope it's this cycle. God knows we have worked our butts off there and so have the candidates there," the Democratic leader said.
With "the turnout that we are seeing in the presidential race, our voters are much more enthused about getting out to vote, and I believe that will make a more conservative electorate and that will help raise the vote of all of our down-ballot races," Webb said.
He said Republicans will win the seats held by departing Reps. John Vines, D-Hot Springs; Mary Broadaway, D-Paragould; and John Baine, D-El Dorado; regain the seat held by Bell, who left the Republican Party to be an independent and isn't seeking re-election; and oust Rep. Marshall Wright, D-Forrest City.
Hot Springs Republican Les Warren and Hot Springs Democrat Jerry Rephan are seeking Vines' House seat. Paragould Republican Jimmy Gazaway and Paragould Democrat Frankie Gilliam are vying for Broadaway's House seat. Republican Sonya Barker of Smackover, Democrat Floyd Thomas of El Dorado and independent Glenn Glover of El Dorado are competing for Baine's House seat. Republican Steve Hollowell of Forrest City is challenging Wright.
Webb said Republicans may pick up the seats held by Reps. James Ratliff, D-Imboden, and Scott Baltz, D-Pocahontas. Walnut Ridge Republican Frances Cavenaugh is challenging Ratliff. Cherokee Village Republican Marshall Davis and Libertarian candidate Christopher Olson of Viola are seeking to oust Baltz.
As for Republicans gaining the seats held by Baltz, Baine, Broadaway, Ratliff, Vines and Wright', Insalaco said, "I don't agree with that all."
Webb said Reps. Camille Bennett, D-Scott; Brent Talley, D-McCaskill; and David Whitaker, D-Fayetteville, are in competitive races with Republican challengers Roger Lynch of Lonoke, Danny Watson of Hope and Dwight Gonzales of Fayetteville, respectfully. Libertarian candidate Cecil Anderson of Ozan also is running against Watson and Talley.
Jacksonville Republican Patrick Thomas' challenge of Rep. Bob Johnson, D-Jacksonville, "could be a sleeper of a race," and Clarksville Republican Aaron Pilkington "has really been coming on in the Johnson County seat with George Overbey," Webb said. Overbey is a former Democratic state representative from Lamar running for the House seat held by his wife, Rep. Betty Overbey, D-Lamar.
"This is a change election, so Republicans are seen as agents of change and so we are picking up a lot of votes because of that," as well as from the leadership of Gov. Asa Hutchinson and the Republican-controlled Legislature, Webb said.
Insalaco said national politics interfere with Democrats running campaigns to push for more state funding for pre-kindergarten programs and permanently restoring funds cut from libraries and senior centers.
"You rarely see anybody go [on social media] and go, 'Well, I'm voting for somebody because I want my kid to get into pre-K,'" he said. "It's all influenced by the national elections. ... It just can't get through the national noise."
The state Senate has 24 Republicans and 11 Democrats. Thirteen Republican senators and five Democratic senators aren't up for election this year.
In Tuesday's election, 10 Republican Senate candidates and two Democratic Senate candidates are unopposed.
Democrats and Republicans are dueling for three Senate seats, and Democrats and Libertarians are vying for two Senate seats.
Webb said Rep. David Wallace, R-Leachville, and Sen. David Burnett, D-Osceola, "are locked in a major contest.
"We feel that David will come out of that. He's a hard worker and a hard campaigner," Webb said.
Webb said El Dorado Republican Trent Garner "will replace" Sen. Bobby Pierce, D-Sheridan, who narrowly won election in 2012, and Sen. Jane English, R-North Little Rock, will win re-election over North Little Rock Democrat Joe Woodson.
Senate District 27, in which Garner is challenging Pierce, "is a district that's favorable to Republicans, to the conservative message," Webb said, adding that Union County Republicans are going to have a good voter turnout in Tuesday's election.
Insalaco said Democrats are working hard in Burnett's and Pierce's re-election races in rural districts.
"I think both of those races are going to be very close," he said. "I think we just have to work hard to get our votes out."
"But if it's 50-50, which I think both of those races are, I think we have a really good shot at [winning], and I really think we're going to win both of them," he said.
SundayMonday on 11/06/2016
Print Headline: After election, state expected to still be red