Arkansas GOP Aims for Statehouse, Congressional Sweep

by Andrew DeMillo, The Associated Press  on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012 8:53 am  

LITTLE ROCK - Republicans hoped to seize control of Arkansas' Legislature and four congressional seats in Tuesday's election, while Democrats depended on the popularity of a two-term governor to overcome a general dislike of President Barack Obama as voters cast their ballots.

Results from 73 state House and Senate races would determine whether Republicans control of the Legislature for the first time since Reconstruction. The GOP was favored in congressional matchups around the state and Republican Mitt Romney was widely expected to win the state's six electoral votes over Obama, who lost the state in 2008 and fared poorly in this May's primary.

Dissatisfaction led Erin Teague, 32, to vote for Romney at the Cabot Community Center on Tuesday morning.

"I just don't like the way things have been going. People can't pay their bills," said Teague, who works at a law firm that specializes in debt collection. She said she voted a straight Republican ticket.

"I don't like the handouts," she said. "I believe in working, earning a buck. The way it is now, it's hurting the people in the middle class that are trying to earn a living."

Michael Robinson, 47, said in Cabot that he voted a largely Republican ticket but that he believed the president deserved another shot to lead the country.

"I just think he needs more time to get everything straightened out," said Robinson, a retired military man now working at the Little Rock Air Force Base as a civilian. "He had a bad start to run with. It's just going to take him more time."

Voting was heavy statewide. Nearly a half-million Arkansans voted early — a record — and election officials predicted that 65 percent of the state's 1.6 million registered voters will cast a ballot, or about 1.04 million.

State GOP leaders wanted to build on gains they made in the state two years ago, with Republican candidates and affiliated groups running ads trying to link Democrats throughout the state to Obama and his federal health care overhaul.

Democrats in turn relied increasingly on Gov. Mike Beebe, who was re-elected in 2010, to help his party stop a potential GOP takeover of the Legislature.

"I've been saying all along I think it's close. You see polls both ways," Beebe said Tuesday at his precinct in Searcy. "It's close right now. The House and Senate are close right now. I expect they'll be close one way or the other tomorrow morning."

Beebe, who leaves office in early 2015 and is not on this year's ballot, has said he wants to expand Medicaid under the new health care law when legislators return to Little Rock in January. Republicans want to explore cutting the income tax and possibly reducing state spending.



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