Analysis: Election Day Good For Arkansas Republicans, Democrats Introduced New Faces

Nov 7, 2018

The race for Arkansas's 2nd district U.S. House of Representative seat was one of the most competitive races in the state with state Rep. Clarke Tucker (left) challenging Republican incumbent French Hill.
Credit Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

The race for Arkansas’s 2nd Congressional District of the U.S. House of Representatives proved to be among the most competitive in the state. Incumbent Republican French Hill didn’t make a victory speech until almost 11 p.m. Tuesday night after it became clear he had won the election.

Final election results from the Secretary of State's office:

Republican French Hill: 131,760 (52.1 %)
Democrat Clarke Tucker: 115,749 (45.8 %) 
Libertarian Joe Ryne Swafford: 5,176 (2.0 %)

UCA political science professor Heather Yates spoke about that and other races with KUAR’s Michael Hibblen.

DR. HEATHER YATES: "It was a relatively late evening. I’m not sure that both camps anticipated it being a late evening. I know Clarke Tucker probably hoped it would be a late evening, but with a different result. But it was a good night for the incumbent French Hill. Both candidates... they waged a very hard fought campaign, a highly visible campaign. There was a lot of outside support for Clarke Tucker. It did make this district competitive. Ultimately the incumbency advantage for French Hill proved to be fruitful. We finally did hear a victory speech last night from Rep. French Hill late into the evening. As a matter of fact, I was anticipating it would be even later than that. But they wrapped up and it was a good night for the Republican Party and incumbents in the state of Arkansas. 

MICHAEL HIBBLEN: And worth noting this is the first time a Democrat has done this well in a congressional race in quite a few election cycles.

YATES: It has been quite a few election cycles. As a matter of fact, in the last election in 2016, there was a candidate on the ballot, more of a place holder, and prior to that there were a lot of empty slots on the ballot. So this was a good showing for the Democrats last night. Its been well known that the intention has been also put out there that the party committee has been wanting and needing to build the party up in Arkansas looking to 2020. So the result last night is encouraging for the Democratic Party in Arkansas heading into the next election cycle.

HIBBLEN: And we had Democrat Jared Henderson didn’t pose much of a challenge to Gov. Asa Hutchinson, but I guess Democrats are perhaps introducing him to the state.

YATES: And what’s interesting about Jared Henderson is that he is a novice candidate that tossed his hat into the governor’s race too. So it could be an introduction, we may see him again, but this is also in line with a lot of the trends that we saw in this election cycle of brand new candidates, novices to politics having outside experience, not holding office prior, and for that, waging a pretty highly visible contest. But here again, Asa Hutchinson is a vastly popular candidate and was a vastly popular incumbent and was victorious.

HIBBLEN: And Republicans won every one of the state’s constitutional offices, all four of the congressional seats. On the two issues we had the minimum wage which won overwhelming by more than two to one, casino gambling also winning. Any bigger trends that you see?

YATES: So the trends that I see from the midterm elections in Arkansas is one that the Republican Party is still a very strong party in the state of Arkansas, and also the president’s popularity also might have had some influence here with the strong showing of the Republican sweep in all of the top ballot races and the down ballot in the state legislature. And then on the issues, what’s intriguing about the issues is that the minimum wage was vastly popular heading into last evening, and the casinos, it was kind of a split, like there was a lot of individuals who wasn’t sure how that casino issue was going to pan out. But it turned out that Arkansans gave it a stamp of approval. So my overall take away from last night is that the Arkansas referendum on this presidency is a positive one. Arkansan put it’s stamp of approval on the status quo, the Democratic committee did put up some very strong competitive candidates and should be feeling good about moving forward.