Arkansas Senate Flips to GOP; First Time Since Reconstruction

by Andrew DeMillo, Associated Press  on Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2012 11:44 am  

LITTLE ROCK - Arkansas Republicans seized control of the state Senate for the first time since Reconstruction in Tuesday's election, while also preventing Democrats from taking a majority of seats in the state House.

The GOP seized control of the Arkansas Senate, giving the party an edge it last saw during a special session in 1874. Democrats also lost control of the state House, though it wasn't known early Wednesday whether Republicans would gain enough seats to claim a majority in that chamber.

With results counted through early Wednesday, Republicans held a 50-48-1 edge over Democrats and the Green Party in the state House. One race has yet to be decided, but there's no Democrat running for that seat. It takes 51 votes to pass a bill out of the House. Former Rep. Fred Smith of Crawfordsville is returning to the House as a member of the Green Party.

Republicans Tuesday night gained a state Senate majority for the first time since Reconstruction and held a 21-14 edge. The final Senate race was called Wednesday morning, with Democrat Eddie Cheatham defeating Republican Mike Akin for a Senate seat representing southeast Arkansas.

Complete but unofficial returns show Cheatham winning with 50.6 percent of the vote.

Democrats had controlled both chambers since the post-Civil War period ended in 1874.

Arkansas was the last state in the old Confederacy to never have Republicans control a legislative chamber since the post-Civil War period.

State GOP Party Chairman Doyle Webb said Tuesday he believed the results showed that voters wanted a "viable two party system" in the state.

"They want a check and balance on the Democrat Party," Webb told The Associated Press.

Democrats held a 53-46 majority in the House entering the election and Democrats in the Senate held a 20-15 majority prior to Tuesday's election.

On Tuesday, three Republican candidates whose racially charged writings surfaced this year lost out to their Democratic rivals in the House.

Republican Rep. Jon Hubbard, who called slavery a "blessing in disguise" in a 2009 book, lost to Democratic challenger Harold Copenhaver, and Democratic Rep. James McLean beat out Republican Charlie Fuqua, a candidate and former House member from Batesville who advocated the deportation of all Muslims in a 2011 self-published book.



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