Arkansas Candidates Make Final Pitch Before Election

by Andrew DeMillo, The Associated Press  on Monday, Nov. 5, 2012 4:58 pm  

LITTLE ROCK — Candidates fanned across Arkansas on Monday making their final pitches to voters before an election that could hand Republicans a majority in the state Legislature for the first time since Reconstruction.

Both parties kept their focus on dozens of state House and Senate races that could be keys to a majority in either chamber as they neared Tuesday's election, with Republicans favored in the fight for the state's congressional seats. President Barack Obama, who hasn't visited the state since 2006, is widely expected to lose Arkansas' six electoral votes to Republican Mitt Romney. State GOP officials are counting on the president's unpopularity to translate into victories at the Democrat-controlled Statehouse.

"That's a clear choice for Arkansans," state Republican Party Chairman Doyle Webb said. "The Democrats are enablers of the policies of Barack Obama and the Republicans will fight those intrusive policies."

Democrats hold a 53-46 majority in the state House, with one vacancy, and a 20-15 majority in the state Senate. Arkansas is the only former Confederate state where Democrats control the state Legislature and the governor's mansion.

Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe and other top party leaders have tried in recent days to counter outside conservative groups that have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on districts around the state. The most prominent is Americans for Prosperity, which has spent more than $900,000 over the past two years in the state and has sent more than 1.1 million mailers.

"They're trying to blur the lines between national and state politics," state Democratic Party Chairman Will Bond said. "When you spend that kind of money to create distractions and mislead and misinform folks, yeah, it's an obstacle."

Republicans have noted that Democrats have been assisted by its own outside group, the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee. The committee, which received $200,000 from the state party late last year, has been sending out mailers and airing television ads in districts throughout the state.

Democrats also tried to keep the focus on the racially charged writings of Republican state Reps. Jon Hubbard and Loy Mauch and GOP House hopeful Charlie Fuqua.

Hubbard wrote in a self-published book that slavery was a "blessing in disguise" for African-Americans. Mauch, in letters to newspapers, defended the Confederacy and declared his belief that Abraham Lincoln was a war criminal. Fuqua, a former legislator challenging an incumbent Democrat in east Arkansas, wrote in a self-published book that he believes all Muslims should be deported and that disobedient children must be "permanently removed" from society.

Former President Bill Clinton appears in a radio ad that criticizes the writings of all three, and the Arkansas Legislative Black Caucus on Monday called on GOP lawmakers to disavow their comments. The party has said it won't contribute any more funding to the three.

Webb said he did not believe the writings would hurt the party's bid for a majority.

Tuesday's election will also decide whether Republicans will control all four of the state's U.S. House seats, with Republicans hoping to take over the south Arkansas seat being vacated by retiring Democratic Congressman Mike Ross.

 

 

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