Robert Coon, Blake Rutherford Weigh In On Tuesday's Arkansas Primary

by Robert Coon, Blake Rutherford and Lance Turner  on Wednesday, May. 21, 2014 3:14 pm  

(Photo by Beth Hall)

The private option’s future has not yet been determined. Is its future a little less likely today than it was before Tuesday? Yes, a little. But while many pointed to key House and Senate primaries on Tuesday’s ballot, the truth is that there are several more Senate and House races this fall between Republican private option opponents and Democratic private option supporters that will have as much — if not more — impact on the future of the private option. One thing is for certain — there’s plenty more fireworks yet to come.
In Conclusion

Lance: Well, as much as I want to code an infinite scroll on this Arkansas Business article, I’m afraid we’re going to have wind it up. Guys, this has been great. Before we go, any final impressions, interesting moments, surprise races you want to note about last night?

Robert: My only parting thought is that timing is everything, and while campaigns like to finish strong into Election Day, there is such a thing as too late. There were two races decided last night that I think could potentially have ended differently had the losing candidate's timetable been altered. 

The first is the 4th District GOP race. Tommy Moll closed a noticeable gap on State Rep. Bruce Westerman in the final weeks — primarily because of Moll's assertion that Westerman supported the private option (and in Moll's view Obamacare) before he opposed it.

Whether you think Moll's attack was true or false (and many argue the latter), it waseffective. I'm sure Moll was conserving resources and trying to finish with intensity, but had he started the attack a few weeks earlier the race could have gone down a different path. I still think Westerman would have won thanks to the Garland County margin he built up, but it's reasonable to argue that the race could have been closer.

The other race is the GOP contest for state treasurer. Many were surprised that Saline County Circuit Clerk Dennis Milligan was able to defeat State Rep. Duncan Baird, especially after the much publicized Krispy Kreme-gate incident. And based on traditional GOP primary turnout patterns, Baird would certainly have been viewed as the favorite, being from Benton County.

But the recent statewide growth of the GOP has diluted the voting power that northwest Arkansas has traditionally wielded and the oddity of what happened at Krispy Kreme never seemed to get to Joe Voter. As far as timing goes, I suspect Baird's team either wasn't picking up Milligan's ballot strength or was waiting for the inevitable break of voters his way — after all, he has impeccable credentials for the office.

But the break never came, resulting in what appeared to a casual observer to be a mad and intense scramble for undecided voters in the final two weeks, which we now know was just simply too late. 

Blake: I have to think that French Hill's ability as a first time candidate to win a three-way Republican primary without a runoff is more impressive than perhaps we've discussed.

Sure, Hill is well-known in business and social circles in central Arkansas, but running for office — and weathering attack ads calling you a fat cat — don't come naturally to many. While I'm not sure the Old Blue ad is as authentic as Hill would hope for it to be, it worked well enough. Overall, his campaign was as promising of any we've seen from a first-time candidate in a while. 

We didn't get to the race for attorney general, which I think will be quite interesting. No matter who wins the GOP runoff between Leslie Rutledge and David Sterling, the electorate will have a clear choice about the direction they want that office to take. I happen to think the Democratic nominee, Rep. Nate Steel, is in a really good position because of his biography, geography and experience. Like Mike Ross, though, he will have to be aggressive at defining himself and his opponent.

Why do I have Shooter Flatch screaming "Don't get caught watchin' the paint dry!" in my head? Anyway, it's been fun, Lance and Robert. See you in November. 

(Robert Coon is a partner at Impact Management Group, a public relations, public opinion and public affairs firm in Little Rock and Baton Rouge, La. You can follow him on Twitter at RobertWCoon. His column appears every other Wednesday in the weekly Government & Politics e-newsletter. You can subscribe for free here.)

(Blake Rutherford is vice president of The McLarty Companies and previously was chief of staff to the Arkansas attorney general. You can follow him on Twitter at BlakeRutherford. His column appears every other Wednesday in the weekly Government & Politics e-newsletter. You can subscribe for free here.)



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