GOP Looks to Fall to Complete Arkansas Turnover

by Andrew DeMillo, The Associated Press  on Wednesday, May. 21, 2014 7:24 am  

Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark. (left), and Rep. Tom Cotton, R-Ark.

Little Rock banking executive French Hill clinched the GOP nomination in a three-way race for a U.S. House seat, while state Rep. Bruce Westerman won the primary for a south Arkansas congressional seat. U.S. Rep. Tim Griffin easily won his party's nomination for lieutenant governor, a mostly ceremonial post he sought months after opting against seeking a third term in Congress.

The election also marked the first statewide enforcement of Arkansas' new voter ID law, which Republicans pushed through during the 2013 legislative session after claiming a majority for the first time since Reconstruction.

The number of contested GOP races was a twist for Arkansas, where Democrats were once so entrenched that the general election used to be effectively decided in the spring primary. In addition to controlling the statehouse, Republicans hold all but one of the seats in its congressional delegation.

Hill defeated state Rep. Ann Clemmer and retired Army Col. Conrad Reynolds in the GOP race for central Arkansas' 2nd Congressional District, which is currently held by Griffin. He'll face former North Little Rock Mayor Pat Hays, who didn't have an opponent in the Democratic primary.

Westerman won the Republican nomination for the 4th Congressional District, defeating energy investor Tommy Moll. Cotton currently represents the district, which stretches across southern and western Arkansas. Westerman will face former Federal Emergency Management Agency Director James Lee Witt, who won the Democratic nomination unopposed.

Voter reaction was mixed to Arkansas' compromise plan to expand Medicaid under the federal health law. One supporter of the private option was voted out of the Senate, while another held back a challenger to win the GOP nomination for his seat. A state legislator who drummed up Republican support for the expansion was headed to the June 10 runoff election against a staunch opponent of the private option.

Republicans also faced an extended fight for the Republican nomination for attorney general, with Leslie Rutledge and David Sterling advancing to the runoff. The winner will face Democratic state Rep. Nate Steel in the fall.

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