Minner concedes to Magie after House District 56 recount

State Rep. Steve Magie (left), D-Conway, and Republican Trent Minner (right) are both vying to represent Arkansas' House District 56. (Left, courtesy photo; right, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Cary Jenkins)

The Republican challenger in the Arkansas House District 56 race on Conway conceded on Saturday evening after a recount showed him still losing to the incumbent Democrat by 10 votes.

Trent Minner had asked for the recount in the race that pitted him against Democratic state Rep. Steve Magie and Libertarian candidate Howard Heffington.

With an estimated 100% of the vote counted, unofficial returns from the recount showed:

Magie 4,052

Minner 4,042

Heffington 274

After the recount ended, Minner issued a statement conceding the race.

"Tonight, I spoke with Representative Magie and congratulated him on his victory," Minner said. "I wish him nothing but the very best as he continues his service to our state. My family and I are grateful for the support voters have shown us across District 56. I would also like to thank the Governor-elect and the many other leaders in the Republican Party for their endorsements and support."

The race was the closest state legislative race this election in Arkansas with just four votes separating Magie and Minner after election night. After officials counted provisional ballots, Magie's lead increased to 10 votes. Three late overseas military ballots gave one additional vote to each candidate, Faulkner County Clerk Margaret Darter said.

Unlike a primary election, there are no runoffs for state legislative races in the general election. The Faulkner County Election Commission will certify the election results Monday. Magie, a five-term incumbent, in an interview after the recount Saturday night said he was humbled by the result.

"It's really indicative [that] you had two quality candidates in a real tough district," Magie said. "To me when it's a close race, that doesn't give anybody a mandate."

For Magie, the race to win his sixth term after his district was redrawn was his toughest contest yet since entering the General Assembly. The newly drawn district includes most of downtown Conway, stretching from Rooster Road in the east to Cadron Creek in the west. The district includes Hendrix College, Conway High School and parts of Faulkner Country and Lake Beaverfork.

But Magie, a 69-year-old retina surgeon, ran a campaign as a centrist Democrat pitching voters on his support for low taxes and for public schools. Magie was one of the few Democrats that voted to accelerate a $500 million tax cut during the special session in August.

Minner, 30, a lawyer who worked in the Arkansas attorney general's public protection department, campaigned on being a fresh face for the district. Minner said he supported more school choice and lower taxes. Before running for office, he ran U.S. Rep. French Hill's 2020 reelection campaign and worked for Gov. Asa Hutchinson, advising on policy issues

With just four votes separating the candidates coming into Monday, Faulkner County Election officials spent hours counting provisional ballots that voters cured.

Last week, House Speaker Matthew Shepherd postponed a meeting to determine committee assignments for members due to how close the District 56 race was.

The results bring the number of Democrats in the 100-member House to 18. Dexter Miller, a Democrat running in a Southeast Arkansas district, has asked for a recount in his race. Currently, Miller trails incumbent Republican Mark McElroy by 618 votes with five of six precincts reporting.