Monday, November 13, 2006

EDITORIALS>>Winners and losers

Republicans took a beating at the polls Tuesday in Arkansas and the nation. Gov. Huckabee calls it “a whooping,” and with good reason: Democrats captured all the constitutional offices in the state and even gained some seats in the Legislature.

For decades, Arkansas had resisted the Republican tide in the South, electing just one Republican governor, congressman and senator in recent years, but Arkansas is now pretty much where it was 30 years ago: Democrats in charge of state government and dominating the congressional delegation, which has just one lone Republican from northwest Arkansas.

That’s exactly how it was in the 1970s.

The election does seem like deja-vu all over again — but instead of Bill Clinton in the saddle, we have his longtime protégé, Attorney General Mike Beebe, trouncing Asa Hutchinson in the governor’s race. Hutchinson’s campaign was named one of the worst in the nation, and there were plenty of them this year.

There will be a bunch of familiar old faces in the Beebe administration. Beebe has appointed his old buddy Morril Harriman, a former state senator and current lobbyist for the Arkansas Poultry Federation, as his chief of staff. Let’s hope they won’t pollute our streams with chicken litter.

Local Republicans did reasonably well, especially in Lonoke County, where they re-elected Rep. Susan Schulte (she was unopposed), Prosecuting Attorney Lona McCastlain (barely), Sheriff Jim Roberson (easily) and several quorum court members.

Former Cabot Alderman Eddie Joe Williams, another Republican, was elected the city’s new mayor from a crowded field, avoiding a runoff with more than 50 percent of the vote.

Williams, who will have an almost brand-new council to work with, succeeds Stubby Stumbaugh, also a Republican, who was swept away in the Democratic tide in his long-shot quest to unseat First District Cong. Marion Berry. Stumbaugh received just 31 percent of the vote, which was less than Andy Mayberry’s 39 percent against Second District Cong. Vic Snyder.

Local Republicans also did well in White County, where they elected Michael Lincoln the new county judge and Ricky Shourd the new sheriff. Republican Dale Brewer edged out Searcy Mayor Belinda LaForce, but because it was a three-way race, there will be a runoff on Nov. 28. (Austin Mayor Bernie Chamberlain is also in a runoff against Barry Weathers III.)

Several other mayoral races were decided in the area on Tuesday: Mike Robertson won in Beebe and Tommy Swaim was re-elected to a sixth term in Jacksonville (both were unopposed), and Dan Stedman will succeed Sherwood Mayor Bill Harmon, who is retiring.

There were several spirited contests in our area, but, amazingly, none in Jacksonville, which makes you wonder why we’re trying to spread democracy abroad when it doesn’t always thrive here. While candidates duked it out in every other community around us, no one challenged the incumbents in Jacksonville.

To paraphrase the late Chicago Alderman Paddy Bauler, Jacksonville ain’t ready for change.