Arkansas Election A Test of GOP Momentum in State

by Andrew DeMillo, The Associated Press  on Sunday, Nov. 4, 2012 8:15 am  

Republicans are crediting President Barack Obama's poor popularity rating, the party's infrastructure around the state and changing demographics for putting the GOP on the verge of a legislative takeover. (Photo by Stephanie Dunn)

"The record is there and we think voters are going to focus on that record," state Democratic Party Chairman Will Bond said.

The party also stepped up its criticism of three Republican statehouse candidates who have come under fire for racially charged writings. GOP officials have said the party wouldn't give any more money to state Rep. Jon Hubbard, Rep. Loy Mauch or House hopeful Charlie Fuqua, but haven't called on the three to end their candidacies.

Challenges remain even if Republicans win the Statehouse and the four congressional seats. The first will be governing, especially after an election where some Republican moderates were defeated by more conservative challengers in the spring primary.

"It's easier to climb the mountain than staying on top of the mountain," said Dennis Milligan, former state party chairman and Saline County clerk. "I think that we've got to go in and govern. We've never done this before."

But the bigger test will occur in 2014, where the GOP has said it wants to build on its gains by taking the governor's office and a U.S. Senate seat now held by Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor.

Both could be uphill fights. Attorney General Dustin McDaniel, a Democrat and the only announced gubernatorial candidate, has already raised more than $1 million for his bid. Pryor, who announced earlier this year he would run for a third term, enjoyed the support of more than half the voters surveyed in the UA poll.

Tuesday's results could also be an early test for Republican Congressman Tim Griffin, who is viewed as a potential rival to Pryor's re-election bid. Griffin faces a challenge from Democrat Herb Rule in the race for central Arkansas' 2nd district.

The one outcome Republicans are talking about the least is a potential split decision where they win one chamber but not the other. Publicly, most GOP leaders paint winning either chamber as a step forward. But they also acknowledge it would be a letdown for a party primed for more dramatic gains.

"I'm going to be extremely disappointed if we don't come out of this thing controlling both ends of the state Capitol and Mark Pryor right in our sights," Milligan said.

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, rewritten, broadcast or distributed.) 



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