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King ousts incumbent Ballinger in GOP state Senate runoff

by Michael R. Wickline | June 22, 2022 at 6:59 a.m.
Bob Ballinger (left) and Bryan King, State Senate District 28 candidates

Former Arkansas Sen. Bryan King of Green Forest ousted state Sen. Bob Ballinger of Ozark in Tuesday’s runoff election, four years after Ballinger beat King.

State Rep. John Payton of Wilburn defeated state Sen. James Sturch of Batesville in a second state Senate runoff on Tuesday.

In the third state Senate runoff Tuesday, businessman Tyler Dees of Siloam Springs handily beat state Rep. Gayle Hendren McKenzie of Gravette.

State law requires a runoff between the two top vote-getters in the primary election if no candidate wins a majority of the votes in the primary.

The state Senate is currently comprised of 27 Republicans, seven Democrats and independent Sen. Jim Hendren of Sulphur Springs.

Ballinger and Sturch are the third and fourth Republican incumbents in the Senate to lose in this year’s primary and runoff elections.

In the May 24 primary, Sen. Bill Sample of Hot Springs was defeated by Garland County Quorum Court member Matt McKee of Pearce.

Sen. Charles Beckham of McNeil lost to Magnolia City Council member Steve Crow-ell in the primary.

SENATE DISTRICT 28

The highest-profile state Senate runoff pitted King against Ballinger in a rematch of their battle in the 2018 Republican primary.

With an estimated 99% of the vote counted, unofficial vote totals in the runoff were:

King . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3,604 Ballinger . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2,917

King said Tuesday night that “this was a victory against big special interests.

“It was the people that did it. It really was,” he said. “It certainly wasn’t me.” B a l l i n ge r wasn’t immediately available for comment by telephone Tuesday night.

On Facebook, Ballinger said Tuesday night that “Things didn’t go our way tonight.

“We worked hard, but it wasn’t meant to be,” he wrote on Facebook. “Our God is so good and our path is in His hands.” Ballinger said he appreciates the help from so many people and he’s enjoyed meeting so many new people and making new friends during his Senate campaign.

King will take on Eureka Springs Democrat Jim Wallace, an artist and owner of Paradise Pottery, in the Nov. 8 general election.

Senate District 28 includes all of Carroll and Madison counties and parts of Boone, Franklin, Johnson and Newton counties. In November, the state Board of Apportionment redrew the boundaries of legislative districts. The board includes the governor, attorney general and secretary of state and redraws legislative district boundaries every 10 years based on information from the U.S. Census.

In the May 24 primary, King garnered 4,863 votes while Ballinger tallied 4,465. Rep. Keith Slape of Compton received 2,936 votes, Harrison Regional Chamber of Commerce President/CEO Bob Largent picked up 1,578 votes, and Theodore (Ted) Walker of Huntsville got 1,461 votes, according to the secretary of state’s website.

After the primary, Slape endorsed Ballinger in the runoff, calling him “a proven conservative voice.” Former Republican Gov. Mike Huckabee endorsed King in the primary.

King is a cattle and poultry farmer who represented District 5 in the Senate from 2013-2019. District 5 includes Madison County and parts of Carroll, Crawford, Franklin, Johnson, Sebastian and Washington counties. He served in the state House of Representatives from 2007-2013.

Ballinger is a lawyer and has represented District 5 in the Senate since 2019. He previously served in the state House of Representatives from 2013-2019. In the 2018 primary, Ballinger garnered 4,245 votes compared to King’s 3,871 votes.

Through June 11, King reported raising $37,110 in contributions, loaning his campaign $120,511.13 and spending $163,325.74, leaving a balance of $8,935.39.

In contrast, Ballinger reported raising $117,370 in contributions and spending $77,430.02 through June 11, leaving a balance of $39,939.98.

SENATE DISTRICT 22

In his bid to oust Sturch, Payton focused on Sturch’s 2021 vote against a bill that aimed to prevent public schools from teaching that the United States is systemically racist.

Sturch defe n d e d h i s vote against the measure by pointing out that he voted for a separate bill that placed into law a process for parents to challenge curricula they feel are misleading, inaccurate or otherwise inappropriate.

With an estimated 99% of the vote counted, unofficial vote totals in the Republican runoff were:

Payton . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3,732 Sturch . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2,634

Pay to n sa i d Tu e s d ay night that he believes he beat Sturch in part due to tons of hard work by his supporters and “God blessed the hard work.

“The people are very conservative in Senate District 22 and they appreciated our message,” he said.

Sturch’s vote against the bill aimed at banning the teaching the tenets of critical race theory in public schools was an example of Sturch not voting in concert with his constituents, Payton said.

Sturch said Tuesday night that the “result was of course not what we had worked toward.

“We fought hard right till the last hour,” he said in a text message.

Sturch said he has no regrets in the way “we ran our campaign with integrity and focusing on the real issues.

“I wish Representative Payton the very best, as I wish the very best for Arkansas,” he said. “I will continue to try to find a way where I can serve others.” Payton will be unopposed in the Nov. 8 general election.

Senate District 22 includes Lawrence and Sharp counties and parts of Cleburne, Fulton, Lawrence and Izard counties.

In the Republican primary, Payton received 6,281 votes compared with Sturch’s 5,353 votes, and the third candidate, Ethan Barnes of Hardy, tallied 3,571 votes, according to the secretary of state’s website.

Payton has been in the state House of Representatives since 2013. He owns two auction and two used-car lots.

Sturch has served in the Senate since 2019 and was in the House of Representatives from 2015-2019.

In the 2018 GOP primary, Sturch ousted the late Sen. Linda Collins-Smith of Pocahontas in Senate District 19. That district includes Independence, Izard and Sharp counties and parts of Fulton and Randolph counties.

Ken Yang’s American Dream Strategies is a campaign consultant for Payton. Yang tweeted Tuesday night, “Congratulations@RepJohn Payton! You’ll be a great State Senator. Linda is smiling.” In the runoff, Sturch’s supporters include Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, who is the GOP nominee for lieutenant governor, and Huckabee, the former Republican governor. But earlier this year the Republican committees in Independence and Izard counties voted not to recommend Sturch in what is a rarely taken action in state Republican Party circles.

Payton’s supporters include Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin, who is the Republican nominee for attorney general. The Conduit for Action group’s co-founder Brenda Vassaur-Taylor of Fayetteville said the conservative group likes Payton’s voting record.

Through June 11, Payton reported raising $35,309.51 in contributions, loaning his campaign $85,000 and spending $70,656.79, leaving a balance of $49,666.49.

In contrast, Sturch reported raising $136,718.31 in contributions, loaning his campaign $1,011.61 and spending $109,522.24 through June 11, leaving a balance of $28,707.68.

SENATE DISTRICT 35

Dees and McKenzie vied for the Republican nomination in the Senate District 35, where McKenzie’s brother, Jim Hendren of Sulphur Springs, isn’t seeking re-election.

Jim Hendren and McKenzie’s father, Kim Hendren of Gravette, served in the state Senate and the state House of Representatives.

With an estimated 99% of the vote, the unofficial vote totals in the Republican runoff were:

Dees . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2,949 McKenzie . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1,714

Dees will face Libertarian candidate Doug Peterson of Prairie Grove in the Nov. 8 general election.

Senate District 35 includes western Benton and Washington counties.

In the May 24 primary, Dees tallied 4,292 votes compared to McKenzie’s 3,162 votes and the third candidate, Jeff Tennant of Gentry, picked up 1,934 votes, according to the secretary of state’s website.

After the primary, Tennant endorsed Dees.

Dees is director of business development at Simmons Foods. McKenzie, who has a decorative stone business, has been in the House of Representatives since 2019.

Through June 11, Dees reported raising $103,625 in contributions, loaning his campaign $7,500 and spending $85,367.57, leaving a balance of $25,757.43.

In contrast, McKenzie reported raising $45,841.35 in contributions, loaning her campaign $6,000 and spending $46,897.53 through June 11, leaving a balance of $4,943.82.

The Truth in Politics 2 independent expenditure committee, financed by the Conduit in Action group, reported spending more than $15,000 to promote McKenzie and more than $12,000 on “anti-Tyler Dees” expenses in the primary.




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