LITTLE ROCK — A push by Democrats to flip a Republican-held congressional seat that represents the Little Rock area and a state Supreme Court race that has drawn heavy spending by a conservative interest group have drawn the most attention in Arkansas’ midterm election.
The campaigns for the 2nd Congressional District and state Supreme Court seats became increasingly bitter and expensive in the run-up to Tuesday’s election, especially from outside groups that have been airing attack ads and sending mailers. The races have overshadowed an election in which Democrats face long odds of making gains in the solidly Republican state.
The secretary of state’s office hasn’t predicted how many of Arkansas’ nearly 1.8 million registered voters will cast ballots in the election, but more than 350,000 had voted early through Friday.
Here’s a look at the top races:
Republicans have a solid hold on Arkansas’ four U.S. House seats and President Donald Trump easily won the state two years ago, but Democrats believe they have a chance to flip a Little Rock-area district by focusing on the incumbent’s vote to repeal the federal health care law.
Democrat Clarke Tucker is trying to unseat two-term Republican Rep. French Hill in the 2nd Congressional District, which represents Little Rock and seven surrounding counties. Tucker is a state legislator who regularly talks about his battle with bladder cancer and his support for the Affordable Care Act, especially its protections for those with pre-existing conditions.
Hill has run a series of ads attacking Tucker by trying to tie him to national Democratic figures such as Nancy Pelosi and portraying him as soft on immigration. Both candidates condemned a political action committee’s pro-Hill radio ad that suggested Democrats would lynch black people if they won the midterm election.
An Arkansas Supreme Court justice’s re-election fight is a repeat of the spring campaign, with an outside group spending heavily to defeat her and facing a lawsuit from her over its attack ads. Justice Courtney Goodson is running against David Sterling, an attorney for the state Department of Human Services, in the non-partisan race.
A federal judge on Thursday rejected Goodson’s request to halt attack ads and mailers from a Washington-based group. Goodson had sued the Washington-based Republican State Leadership Committee, which has spent $1.2 million in recent weeks attacking her or promoting Sterling, to try and stop the group’s ads and mailers, which she says are defamatory and misleading.
Republicans are in a strong position to sweep Arkansas’ seven partisan statewide offices, as well as the other three congressional districts.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson faces a longshot challenge from Democrat Jared Henderson, a former Teach for America executive. Hutchinson has touted the more than $150 million in tax cuts he has signed into law since taking office and his proposal to cut taxes further next year. Henderson has criticized Hutchinson over the state’s work requirement for its Medicaid expansion program.
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.