GOP Writings Might Cost Arkansas Party Shot at Majority

LITTLE ROCK — Arkansas Republicans entered Tuesday's general election hoping to lay claim to at least one chamber of the Legislature for the first time since Reconstruction, but the balance in the House hinged partly on whether the party would suffer for racially tinged writings from three candidates.

Democrats held a 53-46 majority in the House entering the election and the GOP believed it could flip at least five seats to take control — but that was before renewed attention on three House candidates whose rhetoric was criticized within their own party.

In the Senate, Democrats held a 20-15 edge prior to the election. Republicans hoped to flip three seats to claim its first majority since 1874, when the post-Civil War Reconstruction ended in Arkansas.

Rep. Jon Hubbard called slavery a "blessing in disguise" in a 2009 book and wrote that African-Americans were better off than they would have been had they not been captured and shipped to the United States. Charlie Fuqua, a candidate and former House member from Batesville, advocated the deportation of all Muslims in a 2011 self-published book, and Rep. Loy Mauch called Abraham Lincoln a "war criminal" in one of a series of letters to a newspaper and said Jesus condoned slavery.

Republican leaders distanced themselves from the remarks and withdrew campaign funding, but stopped short of asking the three to withdraw their candidacies. Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe called the comments "embarrassing" but said he didn't believe they represented the state or Republicans.

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, "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."

All three defended their writings to various media outlets and said critics had taken their comments out of context. Fuqua told The Associated Press that his remarks were "fairly well-accepted by most people."

The state House had one vacancy prior to Tuesday. Democrat Hudson Hallum of Marion resigned during the summer after pleading guilty to conspiracy in a vote fraud case. He was on the ballot, but if he collects the most votes against Green Party candidate Fred Smith the seat would be declared vacant and a special election would have to be held. Smith gave up the seat in 2011 after being convicted in a theft case, but a judge voided his conviction and made him eligible again.

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