Today's Paper Latest stories Obits Rex Nelson Wally Hall Brummett online Traffic Newsletters Weather Puzzles

Editor's note: This is a revised and updated version of a column first published online-only Wednesday.

The story Tuesday was Courtney Goodson, disapproved of by so many, rudely rebuffed by voters two years ago, yet now the embattled champion slayer of dark money and our best choice for the Arkansas Supreme Court in November.

She sustained hundreds of thousands of dollars in attack ads from a conservative national group appearing mainly interested in lifting one of her opponents, the more partisan right-wing David Sterling, whom she'll now face in a runoff in November, and, we must hope, defeat.

She went into three court jurisdictions to seek to get the ads pulled from television stations, winning one, losing another and having a third rained out. In one of the courts she got tangled up with a conflict-burdened judge whose wife worked with Goodson's husband, a wheeler-dealer class-action lawyer and political operator.

Yet on Tuesday she went out and led the ticket commandingly in the three-candidate field, fending off Sterling and casting out of the race probably the establishment choice and the candidate she had to beat--Kenneth Hixson, the choice of newspaper endorsers, and a judge on the Arkansas Court of Appeals.

Hixson got hit hard, too, by Sterling's apparent backers with dark-money smears. But he didn't fight in court as Goodson did.

The voters were in a mood to tell the smear artisans a thing or two, and Goodson emerged as the vehicle for the backlash.

Her incumbency and name identification must have been the rest of the difference.

She edged Hixson in his own Northwest Arkansas appeals court district. Sterling also bested him in part of it.

The returns in media-heavy Pulaski County were more in line with what I expected. Hixson led with 33.8 percent, nipping Goodson at 33.2, who nipped Sterling at 33.0.

In the end, here's the operative analysis: The victims of dark-money smears, Goodson and Hixson, combined to get nearly two-thirds of the votes. The beneficiary, Sterling, got enough to make the runoff, but only a little more than a third.

There was this concurring development: In an Arkansas Court of Appeals race in conservative north-central Arkansas, incumbent Judge Bart Virden was opposed by a Republican woman and the victim of dark-money smears like those against Hixson. And he won.

We may not need after all to ban dark money in judicial races or require disclosure of its individual donors. We may need only to trust that the voters are starting to get it.

Goodson's comeback impresses after the way she got routed for chief justice two years ago by Dan Kemp. That was partly because of dark money and partly because of her own ethical conflicts, which still exist. The same thing might have happened Tuesday in a two-person race against either of the others.

It could yet happen in November. Let's hope not. It's all about the matchup, and this one is to her advantage.

The other big story was Clarke Tucker, who won without a runoff the four-person race for the Democratic nominee for Congress in the 2nd District to take on French Hill.

He won 58 percent--impressive, yes, and clearly a shot of momentum for the general election. But the other three candidates never quite got off the ground. They were banking on grass-roots populist passion that never ignited.

Tucker swamped them by more money, more establishment backing, a better campaign, greater skills, a personal story as a cancer survivor, a stellar deserved reputation in the community and Legislature, and a health-care television commercial that permeated the public consciousness.

The general election is an entirely new game, one in which Tucker is the certain underdog. There weren't enough Democratic primary votes in Saline and Faulkner Counties to make for a decent barbecue cookout.

As the national Cook Political Report has sized it up, the 2nd District race started out this cycle as "strong Republican," and has since been recast first as "likely Republican" and now as "lean Republican." That's probably as far as it slides.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson pulverized the Gun Goddess, Jan Morgan, by 70-30. In the end, for all her bluster and all my fretting that the Trumpian Arkansas Republican culture had run so amok that the governor's pragmatism imperiled him, he beat her by close to the same margin he dispatched his ultra-right primary opponent from four years ago, Curtis Coleman.

What we have from the indications of all that, it seems, is a seriously confirmed conservative state, but not a crazed conservative one, that can still rise in populist resentment against big money and outsiders. And that still has one congressional district where a Republican must work a bit.

Year of the woman? You could say that. Two women--Tippi McCullough in Little Rock and Nicole Clowney in Fayetteville--won Democratic state representative primaries over strong male opponents. And Goodson, the dark money-slayer. Don't forget her.


John Brummett, whose column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, is a member of the Arkansas Writers' Hall of Fame. Email him at Read his @johnbrummett Twitter feed.

Editorial on 05/24/2018

Print Headline: Stories of the night

Sponsor Content


You must be signed in to post comments
  • TimberTopper
    May 24, 2018 at 6:28 a.m.

    John, a good read, however the haters will be here in mass.

  • WhododueDiligence
    May 24, 2018 at 6:58 a.m.

    Good. In mass they'll have to be quiet and listen except when they sing a hymn of praise.

  • RBear
    May 24, 2018 at 7:17 a.m.

    TT yep, they were yesterday. This recast of the Wednesday column will just pull them out en masse. Don't need to add much over the Tucker article today or my comments yesterday, other than to say that Democrats in the 2nd will need to show they are ready to take this district back by amping up voter turnout. As someone said (not sure if it was John or someone else), Tucker needs strong Pulaski showing and a good surrounding county vote to bleed off Hill's advantage there.
    The problem is that Democrats aren't the best at GOTV these days. They don't have the advantage of right wing pastors using their pulpits to coerce the good Christians to vote. One advantage could be to mobilize the three colleges (UALR, UCA, Hendrix) in the district to vote. Tucker appeals strongly to a young voter, much more than Hill who probably has to have someone do his tweeting for him.
    Just to give an idea of his effectiveness, Hill has sponsored only 16 bills in the 115th with only the LRCHS boundary bill becoming law. In most cases, his bills get only one co-sponsor. Granted, the majority are in the banking industry but he's a banker. In fact, most are designed to benefit the banking industry and not the consumer. So, my guess is those bills were written by banking lobbyists and "handed" to him which is often the practice in DC.
    So, it will be interesting to see if the right wingers can actually provide more information on what exciting things Hill is doing in Congress for the 2nd. You're probably going to hear more about Pelosi since they really can't come up with much in support of Hill. That was the case yesterday. It was all about CA-12 and none about AR-2. You have to wonder if they would prefer to live in CA-12 based on how much they bring it up. I'm sure I can find them a good deal on an apartment in the SOMA District. (Hopefully, my LGBT friends will get a chuckle out of that comment.)

  • mozarky2
    May 24, 2018 at 7:43 a.m.

    Those grass-roots populist passion voters have all switched to President Trump, never to return again.

  • mozarky2
    May 24, 2018 at 7:55 a.m.

    South of Market has become a horrible place what with all the public defecation, discarded needles everywhere...not for me, thank you.
    Sounds to me like you'd be right at home there, RB.
    San Francisco has certainly changed for the worse since I lived there...

  • RBear
    May 24, 2018 at 8:08 a.m.

    moz that's changed since some serious gentrification. Take a "drive" down some of the streets with Google Maps and you might be surprised. That's happening in a lot of urban centers.

  • PopMom
    May 24, 2018 at 9:46 a.m.

    Anybody who is against Trump needs to start working hard for Clarke Tucker NOW. Our only chance is for Democrats to take back the House, and it is possible that we will do so. Clarke has attracted national news media from the New York Times. There is just something about him that is likeable and wholesome. Go sign up to volunteer for him now. I have. Participate in a fundraiser and plan to work in GOTV efforts. Start canvassing or volunteer to have a house party for him. It is time to get busy!

  • drs01
    May 24, 2018 at 10:21 a.m.

    West LR hard-core, bull headed, elitist may find it hard to convince folks in Faulkner, White, and Saline counties to vote for this frail lawyer whose KOD is the Washington DC "establishment" support him as does the NY Times. He does have more money than the last two failed candidates who ran against Hill. But can he garner the Pulaski County black vote than supported both the last two candidates (AA women)? I viewed the election results as rather lackluster. Tucker got the 17,000 Pulaski votes, 74% of his total, and not much outside his little corner of the district.

  • GeneralMac
    May 24, 2018 at 11:08 a.m.

    Typical John Brummett column when he tries to make a point and can only do so by DELIBERATELY omitting info.

    " Year of the woman " ?........." You could say that "

    He then goes on to "prove" his point that (2) women won races in the 100 member House of Representatives.

    He deliberately remains silent that a woman INCUMBENT ........LOST.....her election in the 35 member Arkansas Senate.

    James Sturch.........5,299
    Linda Collins-Smith..4,726

  • GeneralMac
    May 24, 2018 at 11:11 a.m.

    RBear talks about his "LGBT friends"

    I doubt you have any that aren't LGBT .