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Cash flood reported in Elliott, Hill House race

by Frank E. Lockwood | December 4, 2020 at 6:48 a.m.
U.S. Rep. French Hill and state Sen. Joyce Elliott are shown in these file photos.

WASHINGTON -- Democrats poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into Arkansas' 2nd Congressional District in the final days of the 2020 election, in an unsuccessful attempt to defeat U.S. Rep. French Hill, Federal Election Commission records show.

State Sen. Joyce Elliott, D-Little Rock, raised $592,799 in contributions between Oct. 15 and Nov. 23, according to campaign finance reports filed Thursday evening.

Hill, a Republican, listed $315,520 in donations during the same period.

Figures for both candidates were listed on their postelection reports of receipts and disbursements. Thursday was the deadline for submitting the data.

During this period, more than half of Elliott's donations -- $486,146 -- came from individuals; $500 came from political party committees and $106,153 came from other political committees.

[RELATED: Full coverage of elections in Arkansas » arkansasonline.com/elections/]

Hill reported individual contributions of $117,335 during the same period, with political party committees contributing another $850. The remaining $197,335 came from other campaign committees.

Despite Elliott's last-minute spending blitz, the Little Rock Republican claimed a fourth term on Capitol Hill, receiving 55.4% of the vote in the Nov. 3 general election.

While Elliott captured Pulaski County, Hill easily carried the district's other six counties.

Throughout the 2020 election cycle, Elliott raised a total of $3.48 million. Hill collected $3.24 million.

The Democrat finished with $66,734 cash on hand. The Republican had $507,526 remaining.

University of Arkansas political science professor Janine Parry said the massive spending shows that "Democrats really wanted to remain competitive in one district in Arkansas and that they thought they could."

"In the end, that money appears to have been wishful thinking," she said.

Polling, though limited, portrayed a close contest. Ultimately, Hill won by more than 10 percentage points.

By targeting Hill, Democrats forced Republicans to play defense in the Little Rock area, routing financial resources to Central Arkansas that could have been spent in other states, Parry said.

Overall, the investments paid few dividends, she suggested.

Elliott and Hill weren't the only Arkansans to rake in large amounts of campaign contributions.

U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton, a Republican from Little Rock, reported total receipts of $13.45 million during the election cycle. Of his receipts, $684,608 came in after mid-October.

He listed expenditures of $7.06 million and debts of $83,859. His cash on hand totaled $6.43 million.

Cotton, who faced no Democratic opponent, captured 66.5% of the vote. Pine Bluff Libertarian Ricky Dale of Harrington, who received the other 33.5%, listed total contributions of $68,192 on a pre-election report filed on Oct. 22. A postelection campaign finance report for Harrington was not available on the FEC website as of mid-Thursday evening.

Members of the all-Republican Arkansas congressional delegation won reelection bids without depleting their campaign reserves.

In the 4th District, U.S. Rep. Bruce Westerman of Hot Springs listed $99,714 in contributions on the postelection report and total expenditures of $163,609. He finished with 69.7% of the vote and with $1.02 million remaining in his campaign account.

The Democrat in the race, William Hanson of Hot Springs, reported $1,054 in contributions and $8,283 in expenditures on his final report. He listed a negative balance of $1,393 and reported debts of $70,100.

In the 3rd District, U.S. Rep. Steve Womack of Rogers reported contributions of $148,697 and expenditures of $178,401. After capturing 64.3% of the vote, he reported cash on hand of $1.4 million.

His Democratic challenger, Celeste Williams of Bella Vista, raised $20,166 and spent $84,963 during the closing days of her campaign, leaving her with $839.87 as of Nov. 23.

First District U.S. Rep. Rick Crawford of Jonesboro ran unopposed for reelection.

He raised $49,355 between Oct. 15 and Nov. 23 and spent $33,057. He listed $217,503 in unspent campaign funds.

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