Mike Ross, Asa Hutchinson Win Arkansas Governor Primaries

by Andrew DeMillo, The Associated Press  on Wednesday, May. 21, 2014 7:30 am  

LITTLE ROCK — Solidifying a general election matchup they've effectively been running for nearly a year, Democrat Mike Ross and Republican Asa Hutchinson clinched their parties' nominations for Arkansas governor in Tuesday's primary.

The two ex-congressmen easily dispatched lesser-known, underfunded rivals. With most of the drama in that race reserved for the general election in November, Tuesday's primary was highlighted by dozens of heated Republican contests for congressional, statewide and legislative offices.

Ross defeated substitute teacher Lynette Bryant in the Democratic primary, while Hutchinson defeated Little Rock businessman Curtis Coleman.

The governor's race and the fight for one of the state's U.S. Senate seats are among the most expensive campaigns in the nation, but both played a back seat to other matchups Tuesday. Neither Democratic U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor nor his Republican rival, U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton, faced primary opposition Tuesday.

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.

With Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe unable to run for re-election because of term limits, the governor's race is expected to be one of the most closely watched in the nation as Republicans try to complete a takeover of the state's top offices. Republicans control both chambers of the Legislature.

Ross signaled he hoped to win over independents and Republican-leaning voters now.

"I'm an Arkansas Democrat and I'm honored to win the Democratic nomination this evening, but let me clear: I'm not running to be governor of the Democratic Party. I'm not running for governor of the Republican Party," Ross told The Associated Press. "I'm running to be governor of all the people of this great state, and I'm committed to working with anyone and everyone committed to making this state an even better place to call home."

Hutchinson said he was confident the Republican Party would enter the general election campaign united after the primary.

"I intend to spent a lot of time making sure we are unified," Hutchinson told the AP. "I think we've learned a great deal as a party about how to conduct primaries enthusiastically and aggressively, but united in the end for a common goal."

Hutchinson, 63, served more than four years representing northwest Arkansas in Congress and was the party's gubernatorial nominee in 2006. He lost the general election to Beebe that fall. Hutchinson has been running for governor since early 2013.

Ross, 52, served 12 years representing southern Arkansas in Congress and had initially ruled out a run for the state's top office. He reconsidered and joined the race last spring after Attorney General Dustin McDaniel dropped his bid for the Democratic nomination.

 

 

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