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Arkansas Senate Flips to GOP; First Time Since Reconstruction

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LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Republicans seized control of the state Senate for the first time since Reconstruction in Tuesday’s election, while also preventing Democrats from taking a majority of seats in the state House.

The GOP seized control of the Arkansas Senate, giving the party an edge it last saw during a special session in 1874. Democrats also lost control of the state House, though it wasn’t known early Wednesday whether Republicans would gain enough seats to claim a majority in that chamber.

With results counted through early Wednesday, Republicans held a 50-48-1 edge over Democrats and the Green Party in the state House. One race has yet to be decided, but there’s no Democrat running for that seat. It takes 51 votes to pass a bill out of the House. Former Rep. Fred Smith of Crawfordsville is returning to the House as a member of the Green Party.

Republicans Tuesday night gained a state Senate majority for the first time since Reconstruction and held a 21-14 edge. The final Senate race was called Wednesday morning, with Democrat Eddie Cheatham defeating Republican Mike Akin for a Senate seat representing southeast Arkansas.

Complete but unofficial returns show Cheatham winning with 50.6 percent of the vote.

Democrats had controlled both chambers since the post-Civil War period ended in 1874.

Arkansas was the last state in the old Confederacy to never have Republicans control a legislative chamber since the post-Civil War period.

State GOP Party Chairman Doyle Webb said Tuesday he believed the results showed that voters wanted a “viable two party system” in the state.

“They want a check and balance on the Democrat Party,” Webb told The Associated Press.

Democrats held a 53-46 majority in the House entering the election and Democrats in the Senate held a 20-15 majority prior to Tuesday’s election.

On Tuesday, three Republican candidates whose racially charged writings surfaced this year lost out to their Democratic rivals in the House.

Republican Rep. Jon Hubbard, who called slavery a “blessing in disguise” in a 2009 book, lost to Democratic challenger Harold Copenhaver, and Democratic Rep. James McLean beat out Republican Charlie Fuqua, a candidate and former House member from Batesville who advocated the deportation of all Muslims in a 2011 self-published book.

Rep. Loy Mauch, who called Abraham Lincoln a “war criminal” in one of a series of letters to a newspaper, also lost to Democrat David Kizzia.

Republican leaders distanced themselves from the remarks by Hubbard, Mauch and Fuqua 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.

Hubbard also wrote that African-Americans were better off than they would have been had they not been captured and shipped to the United States. Mauch said Jesus condoned slavery.

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 book, “God’s Law.”

Hubbard wrote in his 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 AP that his remarks were “fairly well-accepted by most people.”

Smith, a former Harlem Globetrotter, became the second Green Party candidate to be elected to the state Legislature Tuesday. Smith won the state House 50 race in east Arkansas after a judge Tuesday ordered votes not to be counted for his opponent, former Democratic Rep. Hudson Hallum, who had pleaded guilty to election fraud conspiracy. There was no Republican in the race.

Smith had given up the seat in 2011 after a theft conviction, but became eligible for the seat when his conviction was set aside.

Richard Carroll, another Green Party candidate, was elected to the state House in 2008 after Democrats refused to seat Dwayne Dobbins, a former lawmaker who resigned to avoid a felony sexual assault conviction.

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, rewritten, broadcast or distributed.)

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