U.S. Rep. French Hill, R-Ark., was headed to re-election in his closely watched race with state Sen. Joyce Elliott, D-Little Rock. The Associated Press called the race for Hill at about 10 p.m. Hill represents the 2nd District covering seven counties.
With 71% of areas reporting, Hill was leading with 56% of the vote while Elliott had 44%. The vote count was 155,741-123,853. As expected, Elliott was leading in the state’s largest and most urban county, Pulaski County, which is heavily Democratic. She had 62% of the vote in that county as of about 10:30 p.m. and was leading there, 79,848-48,948.
But Hill racked up more than enough numbers in the outlying counties. He won 71% of the vote in Saline County, where the vote count was 38,698-15,592; 65% in Faulkner County, where the vote was 35,196-18,940; and 82% in White County, where the vote was 17,547-3,961.
He also was enjoying big leads in the district’s smaller counties: 77% in Perry County; 68% in Conway County; and 78% in Van Buren County.
Elliot wasn’t ready to concede even after the AP called the race for Hill.
“Let me be clear, this race is not over, and I have not called French Hill to concede. Voters deserve to have their voices heard and their votes counted. There are still a significant number of votes to be counted and stacks of bankers’ boxes of absentee and provisional ballots uncounted in Pulaski County. Now, more than ever, we must count every vote and work to restore faith in our Democracy. While we wait for these votes, it’s humbling to see how much our campaign has grown. Arkansans across the district have joined our campaign and built a movement to take a stand and demand better,” Elliot noted in a statement sent by her campaign.
The 2nd District is the state’s only competitive congressional district, but Hill has won tough races before. He was elected in 2014 with 52% of the vote while former North Little Rock Mayor Patrick Henry Hays, the Democratic candidate, had 44% that year. In 2018, he defeated state Rep. Clarke Tucker, 52%-46%. Both races had Libertarian candidates who won small percentages of the vote.
This race began with Hill in a similar position as those races and ended there. In between, it appeared to tighten. The influential Cook Political Report changed its race rating Monday from “Lean Republican” to “toss-up.” A poll released in mid-October by Talk Business & Politics and Hendrix College found Hill leading, 46% to 45.5% among likely 2nd District voters, with 6.5% undecided. The poll had a margin of error of plus-minus 4.9%.
As the campaign progressed, the candidates attracted national support. Early in the race, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee selected Elliott for its Red to Blue program in support of Democrats running in districts represented by Republicans. Elliott was endorsed by former Vice President Joe Biden, former President Barack Obama and Sen. Kamala Harris, the Democrats’ vice presidential nominee. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi asked for donations in a fundraising email.
Hill’s fellow Republicans including U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., and former Gov. Mike Huckabee along with U.S. House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., appeared with him in Benton Oct. 29. On Oct. 31, former White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders rallied with him in Conway.
Reflecting the closeness of the race, the two had raised similar amounts of campaign money. As of the latest Federal Elections Commission report Oct. 14, Hill had raised $3.1 million while Elliott had raised almost $3 million.