Items of interest that emerged from primary and “nonpartisan” judicial elections last week.
• GOVERNOR HUTCHINSON: Thirty percent of Republican primary voters apparently bought into Jan Morgan’s overheated pitch that Hutchinson is a liberal, Muslim-coddling, tax-raising, gun confiscator.
This was not a troubling percentage politically for Hutchinson. But to an Arkansas citizen in precincts where most voters are Republicans it means that every third person you meet is, well, maybe a brick shy.
It was a very good primary for Hutchinson, in fact. Two Asa irritants in the Senate, Linda Collins-Smith and Bryan King, were defeated by challengers who backed Hutchinson on the state’s continued participation in the Obamacare Medicaid expansion. Three incumbent Republican representatives narrowly survived primary challengers in Benton County, essentially a win for the Republican establishment.
Jared Henderson, a bright and energetic newcomer, easily won the Democratic primary to challenge Hutchinson, who will now don a moderate suit stuffed with corporate cash.
• CONGRESS: State Rep. Clarke Tucker (D-Little Rock) demolished the narrative from some pundits that his race was an example of an existential battle over the meaning of the Democratic Party. He easily beat three good progressives for the right to take on Republican Rep. French Hill in the fall. Tucker is precisely the sort of new blood the Democratic Party needs.
The Republicans demonstrated just how much peril Tucker presents to Hill, a Wall Street-coddling supporter of Donald Trump. The national party, Tom Cotton’s PAC and Hill himself are flooding media with ads attempting to link Tucker to Nancy Pelosi. Tough, competent women are poison to the average Fox viewer. PS: Tucker has said he won’t support her for leadership.
• JUDICIAL ELECTIONS: The nominally nonpartisan elections have become increasingly partisan, with candidates from circuit court up endeavoring to identify themselves as Republicans, or the judicial equivalent.
Republican or dark money forces put $2 million into races for state Supreme Court and state Court of Appeals, and the news wasn’t bad.
Court of Appeals Judge Bart Virden survived a dishonest Republican attack that attempted to skew his judicial decision upholding the Constitution as pampering a criminal. In the GOP world, all defendants are presumed guilty and cops and prosecutors never do wrong except when investigating Donald Trump.
Even more surprising was the fact that Justice Courtney Goodson led the ticket over two challengers, one heavily backed by dark and dirty money, the other merely the preferred choice of local fat cats unhappy that Goodson once ruled in favor of plaintiffs in a damage lawsuit.
Does this mean a backlash to dark money in judicial races? We’ll learn more in the runoff in November, when a tool of special interests and the Republican Party, David Sterling, will again be backed by a tsunami of dirty money.
• PULASKI COUNTY: Two African-Americans won primary races for county office. Eric Higgins, with no November opposition, will be the first black sheriff. Terri Hollingsworth faces a Republican for county-circuit clerk.
This may or may not prove significant in time. Democratic primary voting includes a disproportionate percentage of black voters in Pulaski County. Few blacks vote Republican. Higgins and Hollingsworth clearly enjoyed at least some racial crossover in the Democratic primary, but racially identifiable voting patterns often prevail in Pulaski County. Could primary nomination of African-Americans provide openings for Republican wins at the county level in Pulaski general elections because of white resistance to black candidates? It’s an unhappy thought to ponder.