Identifying and analyzing emerging trends in campaigns and elections.

More Primaries Tomorrow: Arkansas and Kentucky

In House on May 21, 2012 at 12:33 pm

Tomorrow, voters in Arkansas and Kentucky go to the polls to decide a few key open seat and challenger nominees.

In Arkansas, two races will likely be decided tomorrow, or will at least give us a clue as to who will be the general election participants. A run-off election June 12 is the next step, should no candidate secure a majority vote in the original primary.

In the 1st District, where freshman Rep. Rick Crawford (R) stands for re-election in a much more difficult district for him politically, Democrats may choose their nominee. The favorite is state Rep. Clark Hall, who raised just over $254,000 for the May 2 pre-primary filing period. Steve Ellington, the local prosecuting attorney, who was thought to be a strong challenger originally, has raised just under $55,000 suggesting that his effort has not taken hold. The third candidate, and the man whose presence on the ballot could potentially deny Hall a majority tomorrow night, is Arkansas State University business professor Gary Latanich. He has, likewise, raised money in the $55,000 range and had just $30 cash-on-hand at the pre-primary reporting period deadline. Though he is no threat to make the run-off, Latanich could steal enough votes to deny Hall an outright majority.

In the open 4th District, both parties are engaged in a primary fight for the right to replace retiring Rep. Mike Ross (D). As the 1st District became more Democratic with the inclusion of a greater number of African-American voters who reside in the state’s delta region, the 4th became more Republican because of the shift. Without Ross running for re-election, AR-4 becomes one of the Republicans’ best conversion opportunities in the country.

The Republican race, which likely will be decided tomorrow, is between 2010 nominee Beth Anne Rankin, a former Miss Arkansas in the Miss America beauty pageant and businesswoman, and management consultant and Afghan War veteran Tom Cotton, who is gaining notoriety as one of the better GOP congressional candidates in the nation. Though Rankin enjoyed some national conservative support in her 2010 campaign, a race she lost 57-40 percent to Ross, Cotton is gaining greater local and national backing in this primary campaign. The latest Arkansas Talk Business poll, released last week, gives him a 51-39 percent lead in the primary, just weeks after the same survey sponsor showed the two tied. A third candidate, police officer John Cowart, is on the ballot, but it is unlikely that he will attract enough votes to deny one of the two an outright victory. In terms of fundraising, Cotton has already raised over $1 million versus just under $400,000 for Rankin.

On the Democrat side, in a field that disappoints the national party, a three-way race among state Sen. Gene Jeffress, who has raised only $25,000 for the race, attorney Byrum Hurst, and 2010 Senate candidate D.C. Morrison make up the pool of Dem candidates. While Jeffress was supposed to be the top candidate, it is Hurst who has raised the most money. But even he hasn’t done all that well, as his campaign treasury has yet to exceed $155,000.

In Kentucky, the GOP primary for retiring Rep. Geoff Davis’ (R) open seat is the race of major interest. Davis is leaving the safe Republican seat after four terms for personal reasons and the winner of tomorrow’s party primary, since Kentucky features no run-off election, will succeed him in the House next year.

Seven Republicans are vying for the position, but the race appears to be narrowing to three serious candidates. With no candidate exceeding the $350,000 mark in funds raised, this campaign will be decided by ground efforts. The leading contenders are Lewis County Judge (commonly called the county executive in other states) Tom Massie, Boone County Judge Gary Moore, and state Rep. Alecia Webb-Eddington.

The race has been marked by the entry of 21-year-old Texas resident John Ramsey, who formed a Super PAC called Liberty for All. He has invested more than $500,000 of his own money to involve himself in this race, on behalf of Massie. He has recently run negative ads criticizing both Moore and Webb-Eddington, so it remains to be seen what effect this has on tomorrow’s vote. It is likely that a new congressman will emerge from this race tomorrow night.

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