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The Republican and Democratic parties held their ground in the state Senate on Tuesday, according to the unofficial results in 10 contested races for seats in that chamber.

Four GOP incumbents defeated challengers in their re-election bids as did one Democratic incumbent.

Republicans also held on to four open seats that party members vacated while the Democrats held on to one.

Going into Tuesday's general election, Republicans held 25 of the state Senate's 35 seats, while the Democrats had nine. One seat was vacant.

On the GOP side, Sens. Jason Rapert, Bill Sample, Cecile Beldsoe and Scott Flippo fended off challenges as did Democrat Sen. Larry Teague.

All five open seats were won by sitting state representatives: Republicans Kim Hammer, Mathew Pitsch, Bob Ballinger, Mathew Pitsch and James Sturch and Democrat Greg Leding.

The strongest challenge was for Rapert's seat.

Rapert, who is president and founder of a nonprofit that is the private sponsor of the the Ten Commandments monument installed on the state Capitol grounds under a 2015 law he sponsored, drew opposition for another four-year term for the Senate District 35 seat from Democrat Maureen Skinner.

District 35 consists of most of Faulkner County, including all of Conway and part of Vilonia, but not Greenbrier. The district also includes a sliver of Perry County. Rapert has held the seat since 2011.

With all 34 precincts in, the unofficial returns were:

Rapert 15,103

Skinner 12,266

Rapert said he was "very gratified" and "humbled" by his victory, the fourth time he has stood for election in Senate District 35.

"I'm looking forward to going back down there for the next four years and doing my very best to help Asa Hutchinson and the Republican Legislature to continue to make good on our promises to cut Arkansas income taxes, continue to grow jobs and do our best to make Arkansas the best place in the country to live, work and raise our families," he said.

Bledsoe, a former surgical clinic executive who has held the Senate District 3 seat since 2009, defeated Democrat Jon Comstock, a lawyer and former circuit judge. The seat encompasses part of Benton County in Northwest Arkansas.

In Senate District 14, Sample, a Hot Springs businessman and former state representative, held off a challenge from Michael Colgrove, a medical doctor who moved to Hot Springs in 2012. Sample has held the seat since 2011. The district includes parts of Garland and Saline counties.

Flippo, who owns an assisted-living facility and is in his first term representing Senate District 17, which includes parts of Baxter, Boone and Marion counties, defeated Kevin Vornheder, a Libertarian Party candidate from Mountain Home.

Teague, a Nashville insurance agent who has been in the Senate since 2011 and previously served in the House, defeated Libertarian Party candidate Bobbi Hicks of Mena.

Two of the five open seats were vacated as a result of corruption investigations.

Hammer, a Benton resident who is a Baptist church pastor and a hospice chaplain and has served in the House since 2011, and Melissa Fults, a dairy goat farmer from Hensley and best known as a medical marijuana advocate, were vying for the next four-year term to hold the Senate District 33 seat.

The seat is vacant because Jeremy Hutchinson, a Republican from Little Rock, resigned Aug. 31 after a federal grand jury indicted him on 12 counts of wire and tax fraud.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who is Jeremy Hutchinson's uncle, decided not to call a special election to fill the District 33 vacancy. The governor cited the short amount of time left in the term and avoiding unnecessary taxpayer expense for a special election.

With 29 of 37 precincts reporting, the unofficial returns were:

Hammer 23,002

Fults 10,643

Hammer said that while he was "honored to be elected," he acknowledged an ethical cloud continued to hang over the Legislature.

"We've been through a rough stretch," he said. "I'm not sure that it's done with the things you hear. But when it comes to [the voters'] perception, I feel the vote tonight affirmed they feel I will represent them and do what's right and ethical and hopefully the cloud, like a bad storm, will blow away."

[2018 ELECTION: Full Democrat-Gazette coverage of Arkansas races]

Pitsch, who was serving his first term in the House, won the Senate District 8 seat vacated by Republican Sen. Jake Files. He faced William Whitfield Hyman, a candidate for the Libertarian Party.

Files resigned Feb. 8 after he pleaded guilty in federal court to felony charges of wire fraud, money laundering and bank fraud for pocketing state money he obtained for a Fort Smith softball complex and for pledging a forklift he didn't own as collateral on a bank loan. In June, Files was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison and ordered to pay $89,903.77 in restitution.

The only Democrat vying for an open seat, Leding defeated Republican businesswoman Dawn Clemence also of Fayetteville, who was mounting her first political campaign. Leding, who has been in the House since 2011, succeeds Sen. Uvalde Lindsey, another Fayetteville Democrat, who didn't seek re-election.

Sturch, a Batesville Republican who was serving his first term in the House, defeated Democrat Susi Epperson, also of Batesville, for the Senate District 19 seat, which is held by Sen. Linda Collins-Smith, R-Pocahontas. Sturch defeated Collins-Smith in the May primary election.

Another Republican House member, Bob Ballinger of Hindsville, defeated two challengers for the Senate District 5 seat.

Metro on 11/07/2018

Print Headline: Parties hold onto seats in races for state Senate

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Archived Comments

  • hurricane46
    November 7, 2018 at 11:11 a.m.

    With all the things that he's done I see that there are more than 2,000 idiots in RAPErts district that continue to elect that moron to office so he can represent not them, but his church.

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