Arkansas Democratic Party Chairman Michael John Gray was re-elected to a second term as head of the state party Saturday, leaving the current leadership of both of the state's major parties intact after November's election.
Earlier this month, Republicans re-elected their party chairman, Doyle Webb, by acclimation to his sixth term. Webb faced no opposition.
In November's election, Republicans maintained their hold on all of Arkansas' congressional and constitutional offices, and Gov. Asa Hutchinson was overwhelmingly elected to a second term.
In the Legislature, Democrats picked up two seats in Northwest Arkansas, while two Democrats serving in rural House districts -- including Gray -- lost to Republicans. The result of no net gain for either party stopped a trend of Democratic losses in the Legislature over recent election cycles.
Gray, who is from Augusta in Woodruff County, faced a late challenge for the party chairman post from another Democrat coming off a November loss: Susan Inman, who fell short in her second campaign for secretary of state.
Inman announced her intention to run for the party chairmanship just days before Saturday's election. One other contender, Tucker Iacobacci of Washington County, had signed up before that.
The final vote Saturday, among state committee members, was 127 for Gray, 75 for Inman and four for Iacobacci.
Shortly after the results were announced, Webb tweeted his congratulations to Gray.
Speaking later to a reporter, Webb said Gray is the fifth Democratic Party chairman he's worked with in the 10 years he's headed the state Republican Party.
During his tenure, Republicans won control of state government after decades of Democratic leadership. Webb said the result of this year's elections is that both parties in Arkansas are in a new equilibrium, with either party capable of gaining or losing "two or three" state legislative seats each election.
Already, both party leaders said, they are looking ahead to 2020, when Webb said the state Republican Party will be an "intricate part in the re-election of," U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton.
"We've got a U.S. Senate race in 2020, there are three or four people already talking about it," Gray said of Democrats.
Last March, Gray became the first Democratic Party chairman in more than a decade to be chosen by a vote of party members. Previous chairmen were selected by Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe, who was in office from 2007-15.
In the 2017 contest for chairman of the Democratic State Committee, Gray defeated Denise Garner of Northwest Arkansas. In this November's elections, Garner defeated state Rep. Charlie Collins, R-Fayetteville in a race that Gray touted in a speech to the committee members Saturday.
"Megan [Godfrey] and Denise overcame and flipped seats that people said they couldn't flip," Gray said. Godfrey of Springdale won election in Northwest Arkansas.
"Also we saw the development of [some] whole new campaign talent in those campaigns ... that's what a blue wave looks like," Gray said.
Inman said she was persuaded to run for the chairmanship after hearing complaints from Democrats on the campaign trail that the state party was not doing enough to help local-level and county party groups.
"If nothing else, I brought that to light for the current chair," Inman said Saturday.
Iacobacci, who drew grumbles from some people in the crowd for criticizing the party's policy platform Saturday, said after the vote that the party should refocus toward supporting popular ballot initiatives for policies such as recreational marijuana and tuition-free college.
Under party rules approved in 2015, Gray's new term will be four years. His previous term was for two years.
Webb's new term is for two years.
Metro on 12/16/2018
Print Headline: State party chairmen unchanged after vote; Gray, Webb to remain in leadership roles