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Henley defeats Bradford in Southwest Arkansas GOP House runoff

Dolly Henley and Arnetta Bradford, Republican candidates in Arkansas House District 88
Courtesy Arkansas Secretary of State
Dolly Henley and Arnetta Bradford, Republican candidates in Arkansas House District 88

From the Arkansas Advocate:

Dolly Henley of Washington won the Republican nomination for a Southwest Arkansas House district in Tuesday’s runoff election after coming in second in last month’s three-candidate primary.

Henley received 300 more votes than Arnetta Bradford of Hope and will face Libertarian Tammy Goodwin of Saratoga in November’s general election.

No Democrat is running in the race to succeed incumbent Rep. Danny Watson, R-Hope, who did not seek reelection.

With 100% of the votes counted, according to the Secretary of State’s office, unofficial results were:

  • Henley — 1,328 (56.4%)
  • Bradford — 1,028 (43.6%)

Henley called the results “a win for the future of District 88” in a Tuesday nightFacebook post.

“While I never expected this race to endure so much negativity and gain the attention of out-of-state special interest groups, your support and confidence in me fueled my drive and is a testament to the strength of our community as a whole,” she wrote to her supporters.

The “negativity” she referenced included a series of mailers and text messages, suggesting she is a Democrat, that she claimed were paid for with “dark money” from other states in previous Facebook posts.

Additionally, state Sen. Jimmy Hickey, R-Texarkana, accused Watson last month of accepting a deal from Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ office to support a potential successor that Sanders would also endorse, in return for a seat on the state parole board.

Watson denied Hickey’s allegations, according to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. He and Sanders both endorsed Bradford; last year, Sanders appointed Bradford to the state’s Black History Commission.

In a statement via text message Tuesday night, Bradford thanked her supporters and congratulated Henley on her win.

“I know her passion for Southwest Arkansas is as strong as mine, and I know that she will work hard on issues important to our region of the state,” Bradford said.

Bradford received the most votes in the March primary, with 1,438 to Henley’s 1,375. Robert Bradford of Hope received 231 votes in the first election and later endorsed Henley.

In addition to Hickey, several other Southwest Arkansas incumbent GOP lawmakers supported Henley, including Rep. Carol Dalby of Texarkana and Rep. DeAnn Vaught of Horatio.

Sanders’ father, former Gov. Mike Huckabee, endorsed Henley and donated $1,000 to her campaign, according to the Democrat-Gazette. Henley thanked him for his support in Tuesday’s Facebook post.

House District 88 includes Hempstead County and portions of Howard and Miller counties. Only 55 people voted in the race in Miller County, with Henley receiving 42 votes to Bradford’s 13, county elections coordinator Linda Crawford said.

Tess Vrbin is a reporter with the nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization Arkansas Advocate. It is part of the States Newsroom which is supported by grants and a coalition of readers and donors.