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10 Election Takeaways (Steve Harrelson Commentary)

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Ten election takeaways from a guy who did not appear on the ballot for the first time in 10 years:

1) Tuesday night was a tidal wave of historic proportions. The 2014 elections will take up several chapters in future political science textbooks that will mark the end of one era in Arkansas and the beginning of another. Future savvy politicians will craft their entire platform after the message voters sent on Nov. 4, 2014. 

2) Picking up your campaign signs after a win is a delightful chore you do while you whistle and wave to nice people who honk as they drive by. 

3) Picking up signs after a loss is one of the most dreadful things in life. And you’ll wake up in the middle of the night for weeks remembering stray signs that you forgot to pick up along the most remote gravel roads in the state. 

4) Democrats put the minimum wage hike on the ballot for the sole purpose of turning out like-minded working-class voters to elect Democrats. The problem is that working-class voters voted Republican this year. 

5) Voters took power away from the executive branch and gave it to the legislative branch by approving Issue 1. Even as a former legislator, I thought it was an overreach. 

6) I wrote my senior thesis in college on the unique but quirky political example of border-town Texarkana. One of those quirks is history now: The entire city will be “wet” rather than just the Arkansas side since Texas voters approved that measure Tuesday. 

7) I’m sad for cousin Nate Steel, who ran a great campaign for attorney general. I have friends all over the state who lost, and I had friends who ran statewide in Iowa, Ohio and South Carolina. They all lost. The highest-ranking Democrat in Arkansas now is some state senator. Wow. 

8) I’ve heard national “issue” lobbyists target Arkansas with my own two ears since our state constitution makes it so easy for anyone to put something on the ballot here. The term-limit amendment back in the ‘90s was evidence of this. So was the “right to hunt and fish” passed by voters a few elections ago. Most state constitutions either prohibit or make it extremely difficult to put issues on the ballot. Arkansans made it harder by approving Issue 2. 

9) Since I wasn’t out campaigning every night for the first time in a decade, I got to see firsthand how much money is spent on the airwaves, in the mailbox, on the Internet and everywhere you turned. Wow. I had no idea it was that bad. I am glad to see that Arkansas has now prohibited corporations from contributing to campaigns as part of Issue 3. I hope it withstands legal challenge. 

10) Yesterday’s election paved the way for a new era, ushering in new people and new ideas. Someone can and will take advantage of such sweeping changes and implement the next great thing. Why can’t it be you? 

(Steve Harrelson, an attorney in Texarkana, is a Democrat who represented Arkansas House District 1 from 2005-11 and Arkansas Senate District 11 from 2011-13. He was defeated in his 2012 run for re-election by Republican Jimmy Hickey Jr. A version of this commentary first appeared on Facebook on Wednesday morning and is reprinted here by permission. Email him at Steve@SteveHarrelson.com.)

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