Leslie Rutledge Wins GOP Runoff for Arkansas Attorney General

by Andrew DeMillo, The Associated Press  on Wednesday, Jun. 11, 2014 7:19 am  

Former Republican National Committee lawyer Leslie Rutledge defeated Little Rock attorney David Sterling.

LITTLE ROCK — Former Republican National Committee lawyer Leslie Rutledge won the GOP nomination for Arkansas attorney general on Tuesday in a divisive primary runoff featuring attacks from an outside group that tried to portray her as allied with national Democratic figures.

In another high profile race, one of the architects of Arkansas' compromise Medicaid expansion lost his bid for a state Senate seat. The race was being watched closely as a barometer of whether the program would stay alive in the Legislature next year.

Rutledge defeated fellow Little Rock attorney David Sterling in the runoff, the only statewide matchup in an election that drew little voter interest. Rutledge will face Democratic state Rep. Nate Steel and Libertarian nominee Aaron Cash in the November election.

Rutledge, 38, a former lawyer for ex-Gov. Mike Huckabee, faced television and direct-mail advertising suggesting she was soft on gun rights because she didn't match her opponent's advocacy of a Stand Your Ground law.

Rutledge said she believed the vote Tuesday sent "a strong message that Arkansas is not for sale."

"Arkansans sent a very strong statement tonight that they want an attorney general with the right experience fighting an overreaching federal government and to protect Arkansans," Rutledge told The Associated Press. "I can assure you that as attorney general, I will always stand my ground to protect the people of Arkansas."

Sterling, 45, hoped to benefit from the ads, which were paid for by outside groups and which suggested Rutledge's stand would require people to beat a hasty retreat in the face of a perceived threat of deadly violence.

Rutledge had denounced the ads, saying state law already allows the use of deadly force in self-defense. Sterling has said he didn't have anything to do with the spots, but said he doesn't believe they're inaccurate.

The private practice lawyer from Little Rock also questioned Rutledge's conservative credentials, and both candidates sparred on who had the best experience necessary to fight what both believe is an overreaching federal government.

Democrat Steel said he believed the tone of the GOP runoff campaign would help him attract support in November.

Shirley Jones, 60, said after casting her ballot in Benton that she voted for Rutledge because she was bothered by the ads and mailers by the Judicial Crisis Network. The group's spots and mailers had compared Rutledge to House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and President Barack Obama.

"Essentially, I was just turned off by the advertising against her," said Jones, a retired nurse.

 

 

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