LITTLE ROCK — Democrat Joyce Elliott conceded defeat Wednesday to Republican Rep. French Hill in a central Arkansas congressional race that had drawn spending from outside groups on both sides.
Elliott she planned to call Hill and acknowledge she lost the race for Arkansas’ 2nd District, which includes Little Rock and seven central Arkansas counties. The Associated Press called the race for Hill, but Elliott late Tuesday said she wasn’t conceding, citing uncounted votes in Democrat-heavy Pulaski County.
The AP had determined that Elliott would not be able to catch Hill even with the remaining uncounted vote.
While acknowledging Wednesday that her bid came up short, Elliott said, “as an individual, I will not concede the effort to restore trust in our democracy and count every vote.” Elliott called on local election officials to count all remaining votes.
Elliott ran for the same seat a decade ago and lost by 20 points, but her strong fundraising had raised hopes among national and state Democrats that the seat was within reach. If she won, she would have been the first Black member of Congress elected from Arkansas. Hill has held the seat since 2015.
Democratic and Republican Party leaders said Hill was aided by strong support for President Donald Trump, who won the state’s six electoral votes, in the counties outside Pulaski.
“I believe the Trump surge at the end was to the benefit of getting our vote out,” state GOP Chairman Doyle Webb said.
State Democratic Party Chairman Michael John Gray said Elliott was also hampered by the coronavirus pandemic limiting in-person campaigning. Elliott had held some in-person events, including a series of “drive-in” rallies around the district.
“If President Trump wasn’t on the ballot and we weren’t in the middle of a pandemic I think she would have won it hands down,” Gray said.
Elliott was helped during the race by outside groups such as the Democratic Congressional Committee and the House Majority PAC, which had run ads backing her bid and targeting Hill. Conservative groups running ads assisting Hill’s bid included the Congressional Leadership Fund, a Republican super PAC.
Hill had held events in the final days of the campaign headlined by GOP figures including Sen. Tom Cotton, Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana and former White House press secretary Sarah Sanders.
Tuesday’s results showed Elliott trailing Hill by about 11 percentage points, a wider gap than two years ago when the Hill defeated Democratic challenger Clarke Tucker in another race targeted by national Democrats. That year, Tucker lost by about six points to Hill. Elliott won Pulaski County, where Little Rock is located, but Hill handily won the six surrounding counties.
The incumbent lawmaker said he wasn’t surprised to see his seat targeted and compared it to unsuccessful bids by Democrats to flip it in 2014 and 2018.
“I believe the 2nd Congressional District of Arkansas will always be considered a swing seat as it’s currently configured,” Hill said Tuesday night.
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