Arkansas Republicans Seek Majority in Legislature

LITTLE ROCK — Arkansas Republicans hope to carve out a majority in the Legislature for the first time in more than a century, even though the racially charged writings of three GOP candidates have surfaced and threatened to hurt their momentum.

Democrats hold a 53-46 edge in the House and a 20-15 margin in the Senate ahead of Tuesday's election. The GOP hasn't controlled either chamber in 138 years — since Reconstruction.

Republicans are confident they can change that, despite the fact that Rep. Jon Hubbard called slavery a "blessing in disguise," Rep. Loy Mauch called Abraham Lincoln a "war criminal" and candidate Charlie Fuqua called for the deportation of all Muslims.

"We will win the majority in the House whether or not they are elected," said Doyle Webb, who chairs the Republican Party of Arkansas.

Party leaders have distanced themselves from Hubbard, Mauch and Fuqua and pulled funding in those races, but they have stopped short of asking the three to withdraw their candidacies.

Fuqua, who served in the Arkansas House from 1996 to 1998, wrote there is "no solution to the Muslim problem short of expelling all followers of the religion from the United States," in his 2011 book, titled "God's Law."

Hubbard wrote in his 2009 self-published book, "Letters To The Editor: Confessions Of A Frustrated Conservative," that "the institution of slavery that the black race has long believed to be an abomination upon its people may actually have been a blessing in disguise." He suggested that African-Americans were better off than they would have been had they not been captured and shipped to the United States.

Mauch has criticized Lincoln in a series of letters to a newspaper dating back several years.

Neither Fuqua nor Hubbard returned phone messages left by The Associated Press; Mauch's phone number rang to a fax machine and he didn't respond to an email seeking comment.

All three have previously defended their writings to various media outlets and said critics had taken their comments out of context.

Hubbard took it a step further and blasted the state's top Democrats, comparing them to Nazis in a letter published in The Jonesboro Sun last month. Fuqua told AP that his remarks were "fairly well-accepted by most people."

Still, Webb said that their writings will not affect the GOP's chances of claiming a majority in the House.

"Those are not issues that Arkansans in the other districts are interested in," Webb said. "Those issues are solely between those candidates and the people in their districts."

Republicans need to flip three seats in the Senate or five seats in the House to claim their first majority since 1874, when the post-Civil War Reconstruction ended in Arkansas.

Webb wouldn't get into specific predictions, but he said he foresees Republicans staking out a substantial majority in both the House and Senate.

"It will be more than 18 in the Senate and more than 51 in the House," Webb said.

Democrats disagree.

"We think we are going to at least hold the numbers that we have in the Senate and House right now and are hopeful that we are going to do better than that," said Will Bond, state Democratic Party chairman

The state House has one vacancy going into Tuesday's elections. Democrat Hudson Hallum of Marion resigned this summer after pleading guilty to conspiracy in a vote fraud case. He remains on the ballot, but if he collects the most votes against Green Party candidate Fred Smith, the seat will be declared vacant and a special election will have to be held.

Smith, meanwhile, wants a judge to direct that no votes be counted for Hallum, whose name is already on the ballot. A hearing is scheduled Tuesday.

Smith gave up his seat in 2011 after being convicted in a theft case, but a judge voided his conviction and made him eligible to again hold office.

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