Wednesday, November 05, 2014

EDITORIAL >> GOP sweeps into office

It’s taken Arkansas Republicans almost 50 years to get here, flipping the state away from Democrats and joining the rest of the South solidly in the GOP column.

The Republican march through Dixie started with Winthrop Rockefeller’s election as governor and John Paul Hammerchmidt’s congressional victory in 1966. Rockefeller lost four years later, but Hammerschmidt, the lone Republican in the congressional delegation for a long time, stayed in office for a quarter century, paving the way for a GOP takeover across the state in 2014.

Governor-elect Asa Hutchinson, who held Hammerschmidt’s seat in northwest Arkansas but failed to win a statewide election until now, and Senator-elect Tom Cotton, a first-term congressman, can thank their predecessors, who were often a lonely lot, for yesterday’s landslide.

Sen. Mark Pryor was the most vulnerable of the Democratic senators up for re-election. As the campaign wound down, he was given only a 10 percent of winning on several polling sites.

The Pryor family dynasty comes to an end after 54 years. David and Mark Pryor have held office in Arkansas since 1960, when David was first elected to the state House of Representatives. They were both out of office for only two years when they couldn’t secure their party’s nomination. David was elected to Congress in 1966 for three terms, but lost to Sen. John McClellan in 1972 in the Democratic primary.

David made a comeback in 1974, becoming governor twice before running for the Senate in 1978, a year after McClellan died in office, having served from 1943-1977.

Mark Pryor lost to Attorney General Winston Bryant in the Democratic primary in 1994 but won two years later, continuing his meteoric rise to the Senate in 2002 and 2008.

But that’s ancient history. Tuesday was a virtual sweep for the Arkansas GOP, helping Republicans retake the U.S. Senate.

Apart from the statewide alcohol proposal, which was soundly defeated, the ballot initiatives did surprisingly well, especially the minimum wage increase, which cruised to an easy victory.

Voters may have been confused about Issue 1, calling for more legislative oversight of state agencies, along with ethics reform, which will also mean extending term limits to 16 years, as well as Issue 2, making it more difficult to put issues on the ballot. That may not be a bad idea, since several of these initiatives were meant to mislead voters.

The Republican trend continued with French Hill’s election to represent the Second District in Congress, as expected, along with Rep. Rick Crawford’s easy re-election in the First District.

State House races also trended toward Republicans, with only a couple of bright notes for Democrats, who elected Bob Johnson of Jacksonville, a former Republican JP, in Dist. 42, and Lonoke City Attorney Camille Bennett, who was elected to represent House Dist. 14.