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story.lead_photo.caption Rep. Clarke Tucker of Little Rock is shown in this file photo.

WASHINGTON -- State Rep. Clarke Tucker is the Democrat with the best chance of unseating Republican U.S. Rep. French Hill, the head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee told reporters Friday.

The Washington-based organization encouraged the Little Rock lawmaker to enter the race and is portraying him as the strongest of the four candidates in the May 22 Democratic primary.

"I clearly ... admire and think very highly of Clarke. I think he's in a strong place because of his roots, because of his story, because of his record of service and his ability to connect with his community," said U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, a lawmaker from New Mexico and the group's chairman.

Tucker, a graduate of Harvard University and the University of Arkansas School of Law, is also a cancer survivor, Lujan noted.

The 37-year-old attorney underwent surgery in August after being diagnosed with bladder cancer. After undergoing treatment, the husband and father of two announced that he is now cancer-free.

"Clarke has an amazing story to tell. Not just with his service to our communities, but with his recent trials and tribulations," Lujan said. As a result, he will "have a real story that people understand [about] the challenges that you have when you need access to affordable health care."

Photo by Frank E. Lockwood
Democratic National Headquarters in Washington D.C. on Friday.

The Democratic officials say they'll be highlighting Hill's opposition to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and his efforts to replace and repeal the law, which is often referred to as Obamacare.

The Tucker and Hill campaigns declined Friday to comment on Lujan's remarks, which were made during a question-and-answer session.

But Tucker's opponents in the primary had something to say.

Jonathan Dunkley, one of the other Democrats hoping to unseat Hill, said he's not surprised that the organization favors Tucker.

"This is what the DCCC does," he said. "Sometimes they're successful; most of the time they aren't."

His focus is on the people of central Arkansas, he said.

"We are the candidate that is most in tune with the issues that impact everyday voters here in the district, and Clarke Tucker's an establishment candidate," he said.

Paul Spencer, who is also seeking the nomination, said he hasn't sought support from the group Lujan leads.

Photo by Frank E. Lockwood
U.S. Rep. Ray Ben Lujan, D-NM, answers a reporter’s question in Washington D.C. on Friday. Lujan chairs the DCCC.

"We never really had a great opinion of the DCCC anyway," he said. "We have kind of a scoreboard up in our office that has the DCCC's losses and wins. Unfortunately, the loss side is full and the win side is rather empty."

Gwen Combs, the other Democrat running, criticized the organization for its role in the campaign.

"It's frustrating that the DCCC isn't embracing candidates and voters who are not part of the establishment elite. It doesn't seem very democratic," she said in an email. "We should be fighting for inclusiveness and diversity -- not more of the same. ... It's time to stop playing favorites and start letting voters choose for themselves."

In a written statement, National Republican Congressional Committee spokesman Maddie Anderson also criticized Washington Democratic officials for trying to influence the outcome of the May 22 primary.

"This overt move by the DCCC to coronate one candidate in a Democrat primary is unsurprising -- they've been meddling in primaries in districts all across the country. It's a shame that the national party thinks their opinion is more important than the opinions of the actual voters," she said.

"I guess at the end of the day, Nancy Pelosi likes to pick her politicians," Anderson said, referring to the House minority leader from California.

Tucker has said he won't back a Pelosi bid for leadership if he's elected. The winner of the race will serve a two-year term.

Hill has represented the 2nd Congressional District, which includes Little Rock and much of central Arkansas, since 2015. The district hasn't sent a Democrat to Congress since U.S. Rep. Vic Snyder retired in 2011.

Lujan said Arkansas' 2nd Congressional District is one of 104 Republican seats the committee is targeting in 2018.

"We're going to keep a close eye on all these districts. We are not going to concede one inch," Lujan told journalists during an hourlong question-and-answer session at DCCC headquarters.

The organization, which describes itself as "the official campaign arm of the Democrats in the House of Representatives," helps to recruit candidates and to raise money.

Democrats won't be emphasizing President Donald Trump in these battleground races, he said.

"People out there are tired [of] talking about the president. The president will talk about himself more than anyone else will, but we don't need to do it as Democrats," Lujan said. "We're going to be talking about real issues that families are facing every day and how we're going to be able to fight to make things better."

Democrats have been the minority party in the U.S. House of Representatives since the 2010 midterm elections. They hold 193 of the 435 seats and would need to have 218 seats to regain control.

Metro on 04/14/2018

Print Headline: Party sees Tucker as Hill bane; D.C. Democrats say his odds best


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Archived Comments

  • RBear
    April 14, 2018 at 7:56 a.m.

    Kind of wish the DCCC had stayed out of this race until after the primary. Their meddling can be distracting at times for local races. It's one of the reasons I DON'T donate to the DCCC and prefer to send my money directly to candidates. But, I do agree with some of the points they make. Tucker is the best candidate for this race out of the three. I watched the debate and have talked to a couple of the candidates.
    One thing that bugs me about Spencer is the huge infusion of money from Silicon Valley during the last quarter of 2017. Not sure what's going on there and plan to dig into that more. Of the four, I prefer Tucker and Dunkley in the race based on the positions they put forth during the debate. Tucker scored big points on several fronts and is more the centrist candidate of the field.

  • Skeptic1
    April 14, 2018 at 8:35 a.m.

    Why would anyone vote or a Democrat?

  • RBear
    April 14, 2018 at 8:38 a.m.

    Why would anyone vote for a Republican? See how mindless that comment is and how stupid the context is?
    Actually, there are some Republicans that are good candidates but are typically not aligned with the Trump or far right wings of the party. Those have the insight to work across the aisle and help move the country forward. But apparently skeptic is so mindless he can't see these points.

  • PopMom
    April 14, 2018 at 8:56 a.m.

    I agree that the DCCC should have stayed quiet until after the primary. I think that Tucker probably will win and make a great candidate. I will help with a fundraiser for whoever wins though. French Hill needs to go.

  • drs01
    April 14, 2018 at 9:11 a.m.

    Here they go again. The dems are offering us a west little rock elitist with political ties to the little rock establishment that THINKS they can control every aspect of our lives.The last few times they tried was a disaster. They offered us a couple of double minorities (black women) who got the majority vote in little rock proper but lost big in the outlying cities/counties where thinking people live. The yelllow dogs of the DCCC and their west little rock-upper heights elitist never learn.
    French Hill did more for my family of veterans than Vic Snyder. Maybe that's one reason ole Vic took to the sidelines. He probably couldn't live with getting his butt beat. What would he tell his children.

  • Skeptic1
    April 14, 2018 at 9:49 a.m.

    Rbear...reasons to vote Republican = Lowest unemployment in 17 years, lowest unemployment among African-Americans in several decades, lowest number of illegal aliens crossing the border in several decades, ISIS nearly defeated, bringing manufacturing back to the US, the highest consumer confidence in 17 years, biggest tax relief since Reagan, rebuilding our military, and we can go on and on.

  • RBear
    April 14, 2018 at 9:55 a.m.

    skeptic many of what you provided was started and grew under Obama and only continued under Trump. Trump is a maintenance president and some of the points you made are actually misinformation. Manufacturing is not coming back to the US at any rates that are impressive and when it does return, it's usually to automation that reduces work forces (do your research). Unemployment has been falling on all sectors and started under Obama AFTER the wreck created by ... wait for it ... a Republican administration.
    With regards to lowest border crossings, those numbers started falling under Obama and, if you really want to play that game, why does Trump claim a crisis if they are at the lowest level? ISIS nearly defeated? Hardly. A look at the map of Syria shows differently and many Rs like to point to ISIS when there's a terrorist attack abroad.
    Today, I see trials of Republican officials in NWA regarding kickbacks with Ecclesia. A former Republican congressman essentially got a life sentence on federal convictions yesterday. A recent analysis showed more convictions of those in Republican administrations than Democratic administrations.
    So once again, tell me WHY would I vote Republican?

  • RBear
    April 14, 2018 at 10:28 a.m.

    Add to that the fiscal crisis Trump and Republicans have put us in with those tax cuts, most of which went to the upper class. A recent Brookings Institute look at the problem provides a good analysis of what Trump and Republicans have set us up for, just to appease donors.
    From the article, "On the surface, CBO’s new projections of the federal debt and deficits over the next 10 years paint a troubling picture. But, dig deeper and the story gets … more dire. The Federal government is not only running enormous deficits, but we are doing so at a time of full-employment. When the inevitable recession comes, we will be in deep trouble."

  • Razrbak
    April 14, 2018 at 11:19 a.m.

    Never heard a candidate try and get votes because he beat bladder cancer. If that's the beast he has to offer besides the silver spoon stuck in his mouth, Combs and Spencer have little to worry about in the primary.

  • RBear
    April 14, 2018 at 11:31 a.m.

    Razrbak I guess you missed the debate because Tucker said quite a bit about his ideas and plans. You also seem to discount Dunkley who offered up more than Combs or Spencer. Maybe you should spend time getting to know the candidate's positions on issues BEFORE discounting them over a personal story.