Arkansas Republican & Democratic Party Chairs Surf The Trump Effect

Apr 12, 2018

File photo Republican Party of Arkansas Chair Doyle Webb.
Credit Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Will Arkansas see the impact of a Democratic blue wave in this year’s elections? The chairs of the Democratic and Republican parties of Arkansas walked through their electoral ambitions this cycle, at Thursday’s meeting of the Political Animals Club.

Doyle Webb, the head of the state’s Republican Party, said he doesn’t see much cause to worry about a so-called negative “Trump effect.”

“We will elect seven of seven Constitutional officers. French Hill will be re-elected to the Congress as will as our other Congressman. And our numbers in the Legislature will hold. There may be some new faces but we’ll still have strong numbers that we have there as well,” said Webb.

But the head of the state’s Democrats sees it a bit differently. Although he says he won’t make much political hay over the President’s “antics” because voters are ready to move beyond it to solutions.

“The way you’ll see our candidates take advantage of the Trump effect is that people are tired of that noise coming out of Washington. They’re tired of a Congress that gets nothing done and blames it on someone else,” said Gray.

If Arkansas Democrats want to improve on their minority status, they'll need to win swing districts like House District 39, encompassing parts of Maumelle. It’s held by Republican Mark Lowery. First-time candidate Joshua Price – the founder of the Arkansas Democrats’ Asian American Pacific Islander Caucus – hopes to secure his party’s nomination and take Lowery on in November. But he’s not counting on Trump fatigue to propel him to victory.

“We don’t know what the turnout is going to look like in the primary or in the general. I think this is kind of a new day. It’s a new time to start over and see what happens.” Price continued, “But I’ve been planning this for about three years now…”

Republican Trevor Drown is hoping to trade in his Pope County legislative seat for the Secretary of State’s office. The Republican doesn’t think people will conflate his race with Trump.  He’ll face Democrat Susan Inman in November. First he has to take on Land Commissioner John Thurston in the Republican primary for SOS.

“No, I don’t think the Trump effect idea will matter. Because when I look at the Secretary of State’s race there are many things regarding that race that I am the only one in the race whether it be Democrat or Republican that brings something to the table,” said Drown.

If Trump plays any role in his race, Drown suspects it'll be positive. RPA Chair Webb said much the same during his remarks to the Political Animals Club in Little Rock.

Webb praised the recent $1.5 trillion tax cut passed by Republicans in Congress and backed by the President. He also interjected the name of a perennial GOP target, U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA).

"There may be noise coming out of Washington D.C. and they may call tax reduction and refunds...Nancy Pelosi [says] that it's crumbs. But in Arkansas $1,000 is not a crumb, not to me," said Webb.

DPA Chair Gray said if leadership in Washington D.C. is any indicator, the resignation this week of House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) "lends validity to the blue wave argument." Webb said Steve Scalise (R-LA) or Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) would make good replacements.

Gray declined to name a specific name on who should lead the Democrats in the House should they regain a majority after elections but he did offer a defense of Pelosi's assessment of the GOP's new tax law.

"$1,000 ain't crumbs," said Gray. "If anybody's got an extra $1,000 I'll take it right now, I get that. But let's talk about that in real numbers. That's $20 a week, so that's $6-something a day. I'd take it. But I'd also pay $6 a day for better schools...for better roads for that school bus, to have an ambulance in every small town in Arkansas, or to not have to drive 30 minutes in Sharp County looking for phone service."

Donald Trump carried Arkansas in 2016 with 60.6 percent of the vote. That was down to 47.5 percent in an October Talk Business and Politics-Hendrix College poll.