Democratic representative in Arkansas switches to GOP

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August 11, 2011

Arkansas

LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas: On August 10, 2011 a self-proclaimed conservative Democrat, Rep. Linda Collins-Smith, switched parties and joined the Republican ranks.[1] As of August 2011, the move shifted the partisan balance in the Arkansas House from 55-45 to 54-46.

Although the switch didn't alter the partisan balance in the house, many Republicans from across the nation have hailed the switch as a sign of things to come for Republicans in 2012. Reince Priebus, the Republican National Committee Chairman, spoke out in a statement released by the GOP: "Today's switch is a clear indication that Republicans have changed the conversation and are leading the way to turn our economy around and help job creators."[1]

Democrats however, have dismissed Collins-Smith's decision, and have chalked it up as a just another legislator disgruntled over redistricting. State Democratic Chairman Will Bond referred to the move as "shrewd" and "political."[1]

Collins-Smith reacted to the Democrats' statements, claiming the decision was made after the end of the session, and had nothing to do with the redistricting maps.[1]

Due to some recent changes in the state, namely redistricting and a recent Democratic to Republican party switch, Arkansas may prove to be a dynamic state in the upcoming 2012 elections.

Redistricting

On July 29, the Arkansas Board of Apportionment approved new state legislative maps by a 2-1 vote. Attorney General Dustin McDaniel (D) and Governor Mike Beebe voted for the maps while Secretary of State Mark Martin (R) was the lone dissenting vote. Among the changes the new maps make:

  • The number of majority-minority districts in the House is reduced from 13 to 11.
  • Most of Fort Smith remains the same. Some of the districts in its area will pick up or lose cities/counties, but the incumbents were largely unaffected. Current Senator Bruce Holland (R) will have a newly created District 6.
  • Alpena, a town of 392 residents, is split between three separate Senate districts.
  • The new map pits 5 House Democrats and 8 House Republicans against sitting incumbents in a re-election bid. House representatives Linda Collins-Smith (D) and Lori Benedict (R) have been drawn into the same district. If they both run for re-election in 2012 they will face one another in the general election (assuming they survive the primary).

In the 2010 elections, Republicans made large gains in both the Senate and House. Republicans picked up 7 seats in the Senate and 17 seats in the House. Meanwhile, in the 2012 elections, all 35 Senate seats and 100 House seats were up for election. Combined with the fact that Arkansas has term limits, the state will likely be a toss-up for majority control in 2012.

There will be 7 Democratic state senators termed out in 2012 and only 3 Republicans. Meanwhile, 19 House Democrats are termed out while only 4 Republican representatives are ineligible for to run for re-election. Expect fireworks in the 2012 legislative elections in Arkansas.


Party As of July 2014
     Democratic Party 48
     Republican Party 51
     Green Party 1
Total 100

See also

References

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