Robert Coon, Blake Rutherford On Last Night's Runoffs

by Robert Coon, Blake Rutherford and Lance Turner  on Wednesday, Jun. 11, 2014 8:28 am  

John Burris, one of the architects of the private option, defeated in the GOP runoff election for a state Senate seat. (Photo by Arkansas Times)

Editor's Note: Arkansas Business political columnists Robert Coon and Blake Rutherford have once again joined Online Editor Lance Turner for primary election results analysis. Today, we're digesting last night's runoffs. Got a question or comment for the discussion? Email us here, leave a comment below or hit us up on Twitter: 

Lance Turner: Because we had so much fun last time, it's a thrill to be back today to chew on the results from the runoffs. And needless to say, those results are interesting on several fronts. So let's get to it.

First, the Burris/Flippo race, one defined by Burris' role as an architect of the "private option." What happened, and what does his defeat the defeat (and victory) of other "private option" supporters mean for its future?

Blake Rutherford: Hi, Lance and Robert. Happy to have the runoff over? Yeah, me too.

Certainly Rep. John Burris' loss doesn't enhance the prospects of private option remaining in force in Arkansas, which is unfortunate if you believe it to be very good public policy, as I do. Whether voter preferences turned on that issue alone, I don't know. Sometimes, though, they're just looking for something different, and Mr. Flippo offered that possibility.

Robert Coon: The SD-17 race had a number of factors - one of which of course was the private option, which served as one of the tenants of Flippo's campaign. Another key ingredient was regionalism - the idea that in a 3 county district, voters would prefer the candidate closer to home.  

In some ways Burris had the advantage on Primary Day, as Baxter County was divided among its two candidates, Flippo and [Mountain Home Mayor Dave] Osman. When the race went to a runoff, that restored Flippo's base in Baxter County. The same effect ultimately happened with Marion County voters as well, who seemed to coalesce around Flippo with Osman out of the race.  

Policy aside, the private option continues to be incredibly hard for its supporters to explain from a campaign standpoint as it doesn’t led itself to short, digestible soundbites.

The Private Option Forecast

Lance: Looking at the outcome of other races, there's a mixed picture (at best) about people's feelings toward the private option. Is that likely to sway votes away from it in the next session? And do you consider the PO to be "back on life support"?

Blake: If we look at it mathematically, I believe nine votes can stall reauthorization of the private option in the Senate. Flippo constitutes that ninth vote.

It may not be on life support (Missy Irvin will have a lot to do about that), but the prospects are grim. But as Robert noted, the politics of it are different outside of an election, and there's a lot of good that's coming from the private option as a matter of policy.



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