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Arkansas GOP Chair Expects Legislative Gains, Presidential Influence In 2016

Doyle Webb
Michael Hibblen

The chairman of the Arkansas Republican Party paid a visit to Jonesboro Tuesday night, to rally his political troops and talk about the 2016 campaign.

Doyle Webb spoke at the Craighead County Republican Committee monthly meeting about a variety of issues involving next year’s election cycle.

The ballot in 2016 features a race for President, a United States Senate seat, four United States House seats, 100 state House and 17 state Senate races as well as countless county races.

Webb said his party, with 16 presidential candidates so far, must be on the same page heading into the fall campaign.

“The key for us is to being unified. Whichever one wins the nomination, we have to be unified,” Webb said, noting he believes Republicans will win Arkansas and the White House in 2016.

“We can’t let little issues divide us and let someone else win, no matter what she says and whatever accent she says it in,” said Webb in reference to Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton.

As for the presidential race, Webb said 10 of the party’s 16 candidates have already expressed interest in appearing on the March 1 ballot.

Officials for two candidates – former Gov. Jeb Bush, R-Fla., and Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. – contacted party headquarters in Little Rock Tuesday wanting to learn more, Webb said.

Webb said he also plans to attend the first Republican presidential debate Aug. 6 in Cleveland. The debate, on Fox News Channel, will feature the top 10 candidates in a poll on Aug. 4.

As for recent debate over comments made by Republican candidate Donald Trump about Sen. John McCain’s military record and former Gov. Mike Huckabee about the Iran nuclear deal, Webb said it is his policy not to take positions on what specific candidates may say on an issue.

However, Webb said the party does support Israel and its right to exist.

Webb also said he feels good about his party’s chances in holding both the state House and state Senate.

Republicans hold a 63-36-1 majority in the House and a 24-11 majority in the Senate.

“I see a possibility to pick up seats in both houses,” Webb said.

Webb said his party has made some in-roads on the county level. Republicans won the majorities on the Craighead and Greene County Quorum Courts in 2014, while winning county clerk races in Craighead, Greene, Poinsett and Randolph counties.

Earlier this year, three Crawford County officials – County Clerk Teresa Armer, Circuit Clerk Sharon Blount-Baker and Coroner Pam Wells – switched from the Democratic Party to the GOP.

On Tuesday, Miller County Circuit Clerk Mary Pankey switched parties as well, Webb told the group.

As for the March 1 primary, Webb said Arkansas will play a role in determining the GOP nominee.

There are at least 20 states, each with proportional delegates, set for March 1, Webb said. The first winner-take-all primary is set for March 15 in Florida.

One of the major events this fall for the Republicans is the Reagan Day Round-up Oct. 10 in Jonesboro. Party officials said late Tuesday that several Republican presidential candidates have been invited to the event.

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, will visit Little Rock and Crawford County Aug. 12.

Filing starts at noon on Nov. 2 and goes through noon Nov. 9 for federal, state and county party candidates.

Webb is not the only party chairman scheduled to visit Jonesboro this year.

Arkansas Democratic Party chairman Vincent Insalaco is scheduled to speak at the NEA Political Animals meeting in September.

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