LITTLE ROCK — Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson won re-election in Arkansas on Tuesday, defeating a long-shot Democratic rival who targeted the incumbent over the state's Medicaid work requirement.
Hutchinson defeated Democratic nominee Jared Henderson, who had trailed the governor in fundraising and polling ahead of the midterm election. Hutchinson, a former congressman and federal Homeland Security official, was first elected governor in 2014.
Hutchinson has touted $150 million in tax cuts he has signed into law since taking office, along with a measure he championed requiring public high schools offer computer science courses. He also has called for a reorganization of state government that would cut the number of agencies directly reporting to him from 42 to 15.
"It says that Arkansas is going in the right direction and the voters recognize that and they like the plan for the future," Hutchinson told The Associated Press on Tuesday night. "So it resonated with the voters of Arkansas that we ought to have a new highway plan, raise teacher salaries, to transform state government and lower taxes."
Gov. Asa Hutchinson speaking after his victory against Democratic opponent Jared Henderson. More from his speech incoming. pic.twitter.com/XJlSHz1F0U— Josh Snyder (@JSnyderLR) November 7, 2018
Henderson said he was disappointed with the loss, but he "very likely" would run again for office.
"I'm optimistic about the future although I would have liked to have won tonight," he told the AP.
The governor was a critic of the federal health care overhaul, but after taking office supported keeping the state's Medicaid expansion under that law. More than 250,000 people are on Arkansas' expansion, which uses state and federal funds to purchase private insurance for low-income residents.
Henderson, a former Teach for America executive, has criticized the governor over the state's requirement that some on its Medicaid expansion work or lose coverage. Arkansas was the first state to implement a Medicaid work requirement after the Trump administration said it would allow states to require participants to work to keep coverage. Nearly 8,500 people have lost coverage for not complying with the requirement.
Hutchinson has defended the requirement and said the majority-GOP Legislature wouldn't keep the expansion program without the mandate in place.
Henderson also targeted Hutchinson over widening corruption probes that have led to convictions and indictments of several former lawmakers, including the governor's nephew.
Republicans control all partisan statewide offices in Arkansas and both chambers of the state Legislature.
The race also featured Libertarian nominee Mark West.
Read Wednesday’s Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for full details.
Hutchinson: “Being elected four years ago was the highlight of my political career. But being elected tonight with a very significant majority of the vote is even more gratifying because Arkansans are saying, ‘We have done a good job. Let’s keep going in the right direction.” pic.twitter.com/mS3CMAPjKA— Josh Snyder (@JSnyderLR) November 7, 2018