Legislative Lowdown: Identifying competitive Arkansas elections in 2014

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March 10, 2014

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2014 Arkansas Legislative Lowdown

Table of Contents
Majority control
Margin of victory
Competitiveness

Other 2014 Election coverage
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By Ballotpedia's State legislative team

March 3 was the signature filing deadline for candidates wishing to run for Arkansas State Senate and Arkansas House of Representatives. Elections in 18 Senate districts and all 100 House districts will consist of a primary election on May 20, 2014, and a general election on November 4, 2014.

Looking at the current partisan breakdown in the two state legislative chambers, it appears that the Arkansas House is set up to be a hotly contested chamber while elections in the Senate, with very few actual general elections, will be unremarkable. Both chambers feature many unchallenged incumbents, some of whom won by just a few percentage points in 2012. There are still many exciting races, however, to watch in Arkansas. Multiple candidates who were narrowly defeated in 2012 are back for 2014 rematches and some incumbents have abandoned ship, leaving competitive districts open.

See also: 2014's state legislative elections; Arkansas State Senate elections, 2014 and Arkansas House of Representatives elections, 2014

Majority control

Heading into the November 4 election, the Republican Party holds the majority in both state legislative chambers. Arkansas's office of Governor is held by Mike Beebe (D), making the state one of 14 with a divided government.

The difference in partisan composition between Democrats and Republicans in the House is just three seats, or three percent of the chamber, setting the stage for a highly-competitive election year in 2014. The Democratic Party held the majority in both legislative chambers until the 2012 elections when Republicans seized the majority. There are 34 districts where two major party candidates will face off in the general election.

Arkansas House of Representatives
Party As of October 2014 After the 2014 Election
     Democratic Party 48 Pending
     Republican Party 51 Pending
     Green Party 1 Pending
Total 100 100

Republicans hold an advantage of eight seats in the Senate. That amounts to 22.9% of the chamber and 44.4% of the districts up for election in 2014. There are only two districts, District 19 and District 20, where two major party candidates will appear on the general election ballot.

Arkansas State Senate
Party As of October 2014 After the 2014 Election
     Democratic Party 13 Pending
     Republican Party 21 Pending
     Vacancy 1 Pending
Total 35 35
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Margin of victory

Senate

All 35 seats in the Senate were up for election in 2012. Six of those districts held competitive elections with a margin of victory ranging from zero to five percent. Another five districts held mildly competitive elections with a margin of victory between five and ten percent. There were 17 districts where only one major party candidate appeared on the general election ballot.[1]

The districts with elections in 2014 which held competitive or mildly competitive elections in 2012 are:

Competitive

  • District 19: Incumbent David Wyatt (D), first elected in 2009, is not running for re-election in 2014. In 2012, he defeated Republican challenger, Linda Collins-Smith, by a margin of victory of two percent. Collins-Smith, who is a former member of the Arkansas House of Representatives, is running again in 2014. She will face James McLean (D), a current member of the House.
  • District 20: In a re-match of the 2012 elections, Democratic incumbent Robert Thompson will face Blake Johnson in the November 4 general election. Both candidates are unchallenged in the May 20 primary elections. Thompson defeated Johnson by two percent in 2012.

Mildly competitive

  • District 15: Incumbent David Sanders (R) is unopposed in his re-election bid. Sanders, who was first elected to the chamber 2012, defeated Johnny Hoyt (D) by a margin of victory of nine percent. Both candidates spent time in the House. Sanders was a current member at the time of his election to the Senate.
  • District 35: Republican incumbent Jason Rapert is unopposed in his re-election bid. Sanders, first elected to the chamber in 2010, defeated Linda Tyler (D) by a margin of victory of nine percent. Tyler was a state representative at the time of the election.

House

All 100 seats in the House were up for election in 2012. Seven of those districts held competitive elections with a margin of victory ranging from zero to five percent. Another ten districts held mildly competitive elections with a margin of victory between five and ten percent. There were 46 districts where only one major party candidate appeared on the general election ballot.[2]

The districts with elections in 2014 which held competitive or mildly competitive elections in 2012 are:

Competitive

  • District 13: Incumbent David Hillman (D) will face no primary or general election opposition in 2014. Hillman won the seat in 2012, defeating Garland Derden, Jr. (R) by a margin of victory of two percent.
  • District 39: Republican incumbent Mark Lowery faces no challengers in the primary or general elections. Like Hillman, Lowery was first elected to the chamber in 2012. He defeated Kelly Halstead (D) by a margin of victory of five percent.
  • District 41: Incumbent Jim Nickels (D) is not running for re-election in 2014, leaving the seat open. Democratic challenger Danny Knight will face the winner of the Republican primary between Karilyn Brown and Alan Pogue. Nickels defeated Pogue by four percent in 2012.
  • District 52: Republican incumbent John Hutchison was first elected to the chamber in 2012 after he defeated L.J. Bryant by a margin of victory of just one-half percent. In 2014, Hutchison faces primary opposition in Dwight Tosh. Democratic challenger Radius Baker is running unopposed in the May 20 primary.
  • District 61: Incumbent Scott Baltz (D) defeated then-incumbent Lori Benedict (R) in 2012 by a margin of three percent. In 2014, he will face no primary opposition before being challenged by Doug Driesel (R) in the general election.
  • District 69: Democratic incumbent Betty Overbey is unopposed in both the primary and general elections. She defeated Dwight Hoyle (R) in 2012 by two percent.
  • District 73: In 2012, incumbent John Catlett (D) defeated Mary Bentley (R) by a margin of four percent. Bently is back for a re-match. Both candidates are unopposed on May 20.

Mildly competitive

  • District 3: Incumbent Brent Talley (D) will face no primary or general election opposition in 2014. Talley won the seat in 2012, defeating Sharon Wright (R) by a margin of victory of eight percent.
  • District 4: Democratic incumbent Fonda Hawthorne won election to the chamber in 2012, defeating Daniel Linnett by a margin of nine percent. She is challenged by DeAnn Vaught (R) in 2014. Both candidates are unopposed in the May 20 primary elections.
  • District 18: Incumbent Richard Womack (R) defeated Fred Harris (D) by a margin of six percent in 2012. He will be challenged by Damon Daniels (D) in the 2014 general election. Both candidates are unopposed on May 20.
  • District 26: Democratic incumbent David Kizzia won election to the chamber in 2012 after defeating then-incumbent Loy Mauch (R) by a margin of victory of nine percent. In 2014, Kizzia is challenged by Laurie Rushing (R). Both candidates are unopposed on May 20.
  • District 32: Incumbent Allen Kerr (R) is not running for re-election in 2014. He won re-election in 2012 after defeating his general election opponent by nine percent. General election candidates in district 32 raised more than any other district in 2012. Candidates running in 2014 include John Adams (D), Pat Hays (R) and Jim Sorvillo (R).
  • District 38: Democratic incumbent Patti Julian defeated her Republican opponent in 2012 by a margin of seven percent. She will be challenged by Donnie Copeland (R) in the 2014 general election. Both candidates are unopposed on May 20.
  • District 58: Incumbent Harold Copenhaver (D) won election to the seat in 2012 after defeating then-incumbent Jon Hubbard (R) by a margin of six percent. Copenhaver will face Brandt Smith (R) in the 2014 general election. Both candidates are unopposed on May 20.
  • District 59: Democratic incumbent Butch Wilkins, first elected to the chamber in 2008, is not seeking re-election in 2014. He won the seat in 2012 by a margin of victory of seven percent. Ron Carroll (D) and Jack Ladyman (R) will face off in the 2014 general election.
  • District 60: Incumbent James Ratliff (D) won re-election in 2012, defeating his general election opponent by a margin of six percent. In 2014, he will face Blaine Davis (R) in the general election. Both candidates are unopposed on May 20.
  • District 84: Republican incumbent Charlie Collins won re-election in 2012 after he defeated his Democratic opponent by a margin of eight percent. He is challenged by Candy Clark (D) in 2014. Both candidates are unopposed on May 20.

Competitiveness

Using the official candidate lists from each state, Ballotpedia staff analyzes each district's election to look at the following circumstances:

  • Is the incumbent running for re-election?
  • If an incumbent is running, do they face a primary challenger?
  • Are both major parties represented on the general election ballot?

In Arkansas's 2014 elections, those circumstances break down as follows:

  • There are 30 open seats (25.4%) in the two chambers.
  • A total of 9 incumbents (10.2%) face a primary challenger.
  • Just 37 districts (31.4%) will feature a Democratic and Republican candidate on the general election ballot.

The following table puts the 2014 data into historical context. Overall index is calculated as the average of the three circumstances.

Comparing Arkansas Competitiveness over the Years
Year  % Incs retiring  % incs rank  % Incs facing primary  % Incs primary rank  % seats with 2 MPC  % seats with 2 MPC rank Overall Index Overall Index Rank
2010 45.3% 3 6.3% 41 33.3% 44 28.3 33
2012 34.8% 5 14.8% 34 46.7% 35 32.1 28
2014 25.4% Pending 10.2% Pending 31.4% Pending 22.3 Pending

Senate

The following table details competitiveness in the Arkansas State Senate.

Arkansas Senate Competitiveness
 % Incs retiring  % Incs facing primary  % seats with 2 MPC Overall Index
11.1% 18.8% 16.7% 15.5

Candidates unopposed by a major party

In 15 of the 18 districts up for election in 2014, one major party candidate will run unopposed in the general election. A total of five Democrats and 10 Republicans are guaranteed election in November barring unforeseen circumstances.[3]

Two major party candidates will face off in the general election in two of the 18 districts up for election.

Primary challenges

A total of three incumbents will face primary competition on May 20. Two incumbents are not seeking re-election in 2014 and another 13 incumbents will advance past the primary without opposition.[3] The state senators facing primary competition are:

  • District 9: Incumbent Bruce Holland (R) is challenged in the Republican primary by Terry Rice. No Democrat filed to run.
  • District 14: Incumbent Bill Sample (R) is challenged in the Republican primary by Jerry Neal. No Democrat filed to run. George Pritchett is running as an Independent.
  • District 18: Incumbent Missy Irvin (R) is challenged in the Republican primary by Phil Grace. No Democrat filed to run.

Retiring incumbents

Retiring incumbents, Arkansas State Senate
Name Party Current Office
Johnny Key Ends.png Republican Senate District 17
David Wyatt Electiondot.png Democratic Senate District 19

Two incumbent senators are not running for re-election, while 16 (88.9%) are running for re-election.[3] Incumbents not running for re-election, one Democrat and one Republican, include:

House

The following table details competitiveness in the Arkansas House of Representatives.

Arkansas House Competitiveness
 % Incs retiring  % Incs facing primary  % seats with 2 MPC Overall Index
28.0% 8.3% 34.0% 24.4

Candidates unopposed by a major party

In 66 of the 100 districts up for election in 2014, one major party candidate will run unopposed in the general election. A total of 29 Democrats and 37 Republicans are guaranteed election in November barring unforeseen circumstances.[3]

Two major party candidates will face off in the general election in 34 of the 100 districts up for election. Four of those seats held competitive elections in 2012 with a margin of victory ranging from zero to five percent. Nine other elections were mildly competitive, with a margin of victory of ten percent.

Primary challenges

A total of six incumbents will face primary competition on May 20. There are 28 incumbents who are not seeking re-election in 2014 and another 66 incumbents who will advance past the primary without opposition.[3] The state representatives facing primary competition include:

Retiring incumbents

There are 28 incumbent representatives who are not running for re-election, while 72 (72.0%) are running for re-election.[3] The following table lists all incumbents, 10 Democrats and 18 Republicans, who are not running for re-election.

Retiring incumbents, Arkansas House of Representatives
Name Party Current Office
Walls McCrary Electiondot.png Democratic House District 14
James Word Ends.png Republican House District 16
Hank Wilkins Ends.png Republican House District 17
Nate Steel Electiondot.png Democratic House District 19
Terry Rice Ends.png Republican House District 21
Bruce Westerman Ends.png Republican House District 22
Ann Clemmer Ends.png Republican House District 23
Andy Mayberry Ends.png Republican House District 27
Allen Kerr Ends.png Republican House District 32
John Edwards Electiondot.png Democratic House District 35
Darrin Williams Electiondot.png Democratic House District 36
Jim Nickels Electiondot.png Democratic House District 41
Mark Perry Electiondot.png Democratic House District 42
Davy Carter Ends.png Republican House District 43
Mark Biviano Ends.png Republican House District 46
Jody Dickinson Electiondot.png Democratic House District 47
Butch Wilkins Electiondot.png Democratic House District 59
James McLean Electiondot.png Democratic House District 63
Robert E. Dale Ends.png Republican House District 68
Andrea Lea Ends.png Republican House District 71
Stephanie Malone Ends.png Republican House District 77
Jonathan Barnett Ends.png Republican House District 87
Les Carnine Ends.png Republican House District 90
Mary Slinkard Ends.png Republican House District 92
Debra Hobbs Ends.png Republican House District 94
Duncan Baird Ends.png Republican House District 96
John Burris Ends.png Republican House District 98
Karen Hopper Ends.png Republican House District 100

See also

External links

References