Democrats had to look high and low for bright spots. One was the victory by Clarke Tucker over Stacy Hurst in the race for House District 35.
I supported Tucker, but some observations:
He won a district that favored Barack Obama for president. He won a district that has been historically Democratic. He won 53-47, comfortable, but not smashing. He didn’t carry every precinct.
And this, as a long-time Little Rock election observer, was another tempering factor to me:
Two voting precincts, 106 and 107, cast ballots at Fire Station 10 on Kavanaugh in the Heights, the heart of the country club neighborhood. Though higher income, it’s generally a home to progressive voters. Pro-tax, pro-Democratic as a rule. The education level is high. People read the daily newspaper there.
The Tucker-Hurst race featured two candidates from the heart of that district with long-standing family ties. Tucker carried the two precincts combined, 1,068 to 943.
But you could see hints of realignment there, too. They were from the neighborhood, true, but congressional candidate French Hill and lieutenant governor Tim Griffin, both Republicans, carried the two precincts easily. That was not the case when Griffin ran for Congress. Susan Inman, a Little Rock resident with a spotless reputation, only barely beat the trouble-plagued Secretary of State Mark Martin. The Republican candidate for county judge, Phil Wyrick, bested the winning Democrat, Barry Hyde. Another clearly superior Democrat, Karen Garcia, only squeaked past Dennis Milligan, 943-915 in the two. Voters in the area DO differentiate. They favored Nate Steel over Republican Leslie Rutledge for attorney general, 1,305 to 656. Newspaper readers, they may be, but clearly not followers of Democrat-Gazette editorial writer and Heights resident Paul Greenberg’s endorsement of Rutledge or Hurst.
It’s actually refreshing to see precincts that offered so many differentiations among races, unlike the general election outcome, which looked an awful lot like party-line voting,
Hurst had more money and ran hard. It’s interesting to speculate how the race would have turned out had her supporters not attempted to make an issue out of where Tucker’s 4-year-old son went to school and had they not made an issue of Tucker handling a single pro bono criminal case. What if she’d run simply as a familiar name from a well-known family business who’d served a dozen years on the Little Rock City Board against a fine young man deserving of praise but not yet her match in public experience? Or, what if she’d run as a Democrat?
You might as well ask what if Arkansas was more like Hillcrest.