Two Arkansas Democrats have announced candidacies for a pair of key state districts in the D’s uphill quest to retake the state House or Senate.
Democrat Garry Smith has announced for Arkansas Senate District 27, with word that there would an additional Democrat throwing her hat into the ring, creating the possibility of a rare Democratic primary. The south Arkansas district includes parts of Union, Jefferson, Ouachita, Calhoun, Grant, and Cleveland counties. It had previously been represented by Democrat Bobby Pierce; the seat is currently held by Republican Trent Garner.
Meanwhile, in Northwest Arkansas, Suzie Bell of Eureka Springs announced her candidacy for Arkansas House District 97, which contains parts of Carroll, Madison, and Washington counties. Bell is known in the district as being co-founder of Eureka Christian Health Outreach (ECHO), a free clinic that serves area residents without insurance coverage. So, unsurprisingly, healthcare is a major policy plank of Bell’s. She’s come out swinging against the Hutchinson administration’s Medicaid work requirement, which caused thousands to lose coverage before a federal judge halted it. Bell, who moved to Arkansas in the ninth grade, faces Louisiana-raised Republican Harlan Breaux, who’s finishing his first term. Breaux replaced Republican Bob Ballinger, who moved to the state senate.
Bell was born in Bolivia and immigrated to the U.S. with her family as a child. Amid President Trump’s racist and xenophobic attacks on a congresswoman who’s also an immigrant, Bell tweeted this:
As an immigrant who came here at the age of 3 I love the fact that I can criticize and offer up ideas without fear of persecution. And I can run for office to help this country I love. You can support me at https://t.co/eTCgj76UVi #arleg #arpx
— Suzie Bell (@SuzieBell_AR) July 17, 2019
In 2016, Arkansas Democrats only competed in less than half of the 100 congressional seats up for grabs — making it numerically impossible for the party to retake either chamber even if it won every race.