Democrats still hold the majority in the Arkansas General Assembly, but Republicans made historic gains in the House and picked up at least seven seats in the Senate.
Republicans entered Tuesday’s election with 28 seats in the 100-member House. They’re assured of at least 41 when the Legislature convenes in January and could find Democrats with only a 53-seat majority. Republicans were leading in five House races where votes remained uncounted.
The GOP’s historic gains in the House complements its performance in the Senate, where the party picked up at least six seats, and could end up with a 20-15 Democratic margin. A Republican was leading in a Senate race with some votes still uncounted.
Gov. Mike Beebe, a Democrat, handily won re-election to keep the Capitol under his party’s leadership.
Republicans held as many as 30 House seats while Republican former Gov. Mike Huckabee was in office, which pales beside Tuesday’s outcome. The party is assured of more House seats than it has had since Reconstruction.
Democrats entered the night with 38 uncontested candidates while Republicans had 21. Two of the Democrats initially had GOP opponents, but one Republican nominee died last week and another was struck from the ballot because of a 1980s misdemeanor conviction for bribery.
The candidate who died, Keith Crass of Hot Springs, was the top vote-getter in his race. The governor will have to call a special election to fill the seat, which will be declared vacant.
Candidates in the two parties went head-to-head in another 30 contests Tuesday.
In the remaining 11 races, nine Democratic candidates faced independents, write-in candidates or nominees from third parties. Republicans faced minor opposition in two of the contests.
In the 35-member Arkansas Senate, Democrats were assured of 20 seats, including 12 that were not up for election this year. Six Republicans were not up for re-election this year. On Tuesday, the GOP won eight more seats and was leading in the lone remaining race.
Among high-profile House races, longtime civil rights lawyer John Walker, a Democrat, beat Republican Carolyn Smith. For years, Walker has been heavily involved in desegregation litigation involving Little Rock schools. The issue vexes many lawmakers who want to stop state payments to help integrate schools.
State Rep. Dawn Creekmore lost to former state Rep. Jeremy Hutchinson for a state Senate seat representing parts of Pulaski and Saline counties. Hutchinson beat state Rep. Dan Greenberg for the GOP nomination in the spring. The winner replaces Sen. Shane Broadway, a Democrat who’s running for lieutenant governor.
David Burnett, a circuit judge from eastern Arkansas who presided over the high-profile West Memphis murder trials, locked up a state Senate seat during the May primary. He was elected as a Democrat. Incumbent state Sen. Jack Crumbly, also a Democrat, was without opposition Tuesday. His 2006 victory was marked by allegations of voter fraud but the Senate allowed him to keep his seat.
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