At 10 p.m., a couple of results remain, but it’s not too early to say definitively that it was a historic day in Arkansas, a triumphant Republican tidal wave that holds every promise of being here for a long time to come.
Republicans hold both U.S. Senate seats. They’ve been declared winners of three of the four congressional races, with Democrat Pat Hays only still alive in the 2nd District, but trailing Republican French Hill. Hays is carrying Pulaski County, where some of the outstanding precincts are yet to be counted, but he has an uphill climb. UPDATE AT 10:50 PM: AP has called the race for Hill, standing at 49-46.
Republicans swept the statewide offices — all seven. They’ll be the majority party for the first time. That puts them in in control of county election commissions.
President Obama was an important factor in the win, along with his health care law. But the sea change seems to signify more than that as a tidal pull The 55 percent votes, uniformly, for statewide candidates seem indicative of a remaking of the state’s political DNA.
The Republican victory came, too, on the strength of well-financed and disciplined campaigns with some gifted canddiates. Asa Hutchinson, winning a statewide office on his fourth try, was particularly sharp, nearly flawless in his r.
Democrats didn’t go without a fight. They raised a lot of money. They had a large voter registration and turnout effort. They recruited good candidates. They had a rich history to run in, names like Pryor and Bumpers and Clinton. Despite many good campaigns — both Mark Pryor and Mike Ross have no need to be embarrassed — they lost soundly and conclusively.
It’s a night for celebration for Republicans. A dark night for Democrats.
It’s a victory not without promise of interest for political spectators. Early returns indicate big gains for the Republicans in the House and even an expansion of their Senate majority. Two Democratic Senate incumbents lost and, of course Sen. Jason Rapert was re-elected. These are not cookie-cutter candidates on some issues, particularly the private option Medicaid expansion. Some vigorous debate and tests of new leaders’ political skills — the new governor particularly — lie ahead.
It was interesting that legislative amendments all seemed headed to victory, perhaps even the ethics amendment that includes longer term limits. I thought sure the last would fail. These proposals increased power for the legislature on rule making and made it harder for the people to put proposals on the ballot. For voters who responded to the Republican anti-government campaign strategy, it seemed a little ironic to also give the central government still more power.
The minimum wage increase did pass. Statewide alcohol sales did not. No money was spent to pass the alcohol option. County line liquor stores spent huge sums to preserve their monopolies.
Closer to home, Democrats in Pulaski County could take some cold comfort that Democrats uniformly carried the statewide races in the county and elected another Democratic county judge, in Barry Hyde. But Democrats apparently lost two previously Democratic House seats in the county. It had only Clarke Tucker’s hard-fought win over City Director Stacy Hurst for another House seat to cheer, and that just held an existing Democratic seat.
The Little Rock City Board looks unchanged at this hour, with incumbent Directors Erma Hendrix and Doris Wright winning handily; Ken Richardson leading narrowly, and Kathy Webb winning an open seat vacated by Stacy Hurst.
So the new day dawns. Voters responded favorably to Republican promises of smaller government, lower taxes, more jobs, better schools and more criminals behind bars. What’s not to cheer?
Already people are talking about rising Sen. Tom Cotton as a presidential candidate. So there’s also that.