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Democrats Hope to Flip House Seat in Solidly Red Arkansas

2 min read

LITTLE ROCK — A Democratic state legislator and cancer survivor hopes to flip a Republican-held congressional seat in central Arkansas in a race that has focused on the GOP incumbent’s support for repealing the federal health care law.

Republican U.S. Rep. French Hill is trying to fend off a competitive bid by Democratic challenger Clarke Tucker in Tuesday’s election for the 2nd Congressional District covering Little Rock and seven central Arkansas counties. Hill was first elected to the seat in 2014. The race also features Libertarian nominee Joe Swafford.

Democrats believe the 2nd District’s urban section gives the party a better chance than Arkansas’ three other congressional seats, where challengers are mounting long-shot bids to unseat Republican incumbents. Nationally, Democrats’ hopes of flipping 23 Republican seats and regaining control of the House may depend on winning some races in parts of the country where President Donald Trump remains popular.

In 2016, Trump won 52 percent of the district’s vote. To prevail now, Democrats will need a heavy turnout in Little Rock and its surrounding county, which is about 37 percent black and 6 percent Hispanic.

Tucker has talked often in the race about his bout with bladder cancer last year, and has criticized Hill over his vote to repeal the federal health care law last year. Tucker underwent surgery and chemotherapy last year and is now cancer-free. Tucker said the experience and House Republicans’ vote to repeal the health care law motivated him to challenge Hill. The repeal failed in the Senate.

Hill easily won his second term in 2016 by more than 20 percentage points, but has been on defense in the race. He has run a series of ads trying to link Tucker with national Democrats such as Nancy Pelosi and Hillary Clinton. He also has criticized Tucker as soft on immigration and for the times he voted “present” or didn’t cast a vote on controversial bills in the state House.

Hill’s campaign fund has dwarfed Tucker’s, and the race has drawn the interest of national groups on both sides. Republican U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton’s PAC has run online ads and sent out mailers targeting Tucker, while the Democrats’ congressional campaign arm has run TV spots attacking Hill over health care. Both candidates last month condemned a political action committee’s radio ad in favor of Hill that suggested white Democrats would lynch black Americans if they won the midterm election.

In east Arkansas’ 1st Congressional District, Republican Rep. Rick Crawford faces Democratic challenger Chintan Desai. Republican Rep. Steve Womack, who chairs the House Budget Committee, faces Democrat Josh Mahony in northwest Arkansas’ 3rd District. Republican Rep. Bruce Westerman is running against Hayden Shamel in the 4th District in south Arkansas.

(All contents © copyright 2018 Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

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