5 things to watch in every state: Arkansas

The former Arkansas First Lady and somewhat of a home state is running for President but I don’t think it’s going to make much of a difference.  Arkansas has taken a decidedly conservative in recent years and even people like Mark Pryor got voted out of office.

  1. Issue 6/Issue 7: There are two ballot measures regarding medical marijuana in Arkansas, Issue 6 and Issue 7.  If they both pass, the one that has the most votes will be the one that is enacted.  Which, if you think about it, is kind of messed up. When it’s all said and done, when we look back at the elections of 2016, there will be a definite theme of marijuana in the same way that 2004 has often been talked about in behind the same sex marriage amendments that were passed during the same time. Issue 6 and Issue 7 are slightly different.  Issue 7 allows medical marijuana patients to grow marijuana in their homes, a statute that Issue 6 does not touch.  Issue 7 also expands the list of qualifying conditions and provides additional oversight.  The tax revenue for Issue 6 would be given to the general fund or for education whereas Issue 7 would use the tax revenue to provide medical marijuana to low income patients in need. Issue 7 also puts the Department of Health in charge of regulation as opposed to a new agency.  The little polling I have seen shows that Issue 6 is pretty split for Arkansas even though proponents of the measure suggest that 80% of Arkansasites support medical marijuana for patients in need.  Issue 7 does worse in polling seeming to suggest that Issue 6 has the better chance of passing.  I’m not confident that either pass but Issue 6 certainly seems more likely.  If we do see medical marijuana pass in Arkansas, a traditionally conservative state, it may open the floodgates for other states to pass similar statutes and may be a gateway for other states to pass similar measures.
  2. Arkansas State Senate District 27: Republicans hold the State Senate, State House of Representatives, and the Governor’s office.  There’s not very many competitive elections in the State Senate, in fact, there are only three State Senate districts where a member of each party is running against each other. All other districts, there is only one major party candidate running. Democrat Bobby Pierce is running for re-election.  Pierce won election in 2012 by 299 votes.  Romney won the state as a whole with 60.57% of the vote.  It seems unlikely to me that Trump will do much better than Romney (if he matches that total, at all).  But it’s even more likely to me that Pierce will be in for a close election against Republican Trent Garner. It can certainly be closer than 300 votes that he won by in 2012 but what I’ll be watching for is how Pierce does in this district.
  3. Arkansas State House of Representatives District 73: Supposedly, Arkansas Democrats are trying to focus on winning districts in the House of Representatives. If they’re looking to take back a seat, this is probably one of the ones that they’re targeting.  The Democratic incumbent John Wayne Catlett lost re-election in 2014 by less than 200 votes.  He had won re-election in 2012 by just over 300 votes in 2012.  There was a net loss of about 900 voters from 2012 to 2014 in terms of turnout.  Since it was recently taken by Republicans in 2014 by such a small margin, it could be one just as easily taken back by Democrats with normal Presidential election level turnout.  The other variable is the strength of the Democratic candidate Lesa Wolfe Crowell.   I’ll be looking to see if Democrats can potentially take back a seat in the House of Representatives.
  4. Arkansas State House of Representatives District 4: This is more of a longshot to take back by the Democrats.  Fonda Hawthorne won election in this district in 2012 with 4870 votes, less than 800 more than her Republican opponent.  As we saw with elections around the country and Arkansas, in particular, Republicans were able to turn out for the 2014 elections. Hawthorne received 2962 votes in 2014.  She lost her re-election bid to her Republican opponent DeAnn Vaught who received 4317 votes in 2014.  Vaught and Hawthorne are locked into an interesting rematch for November 8.  The only variable for the election is the turnout and how much of a coattail Clinton will have even in a Republican state.
  5. Arkansas State House of Representatives District 58: We’ll end on one more district that the Democratic Party might be able to take back in two weeks.  This seat changed hands in 2012 moving from Republican Jon Hubbard to Democrat Harold Copenhaver by a little less than 700 votes.  It switched to Republican Brandt Smith in 2014 by less than 500 votes.  It would make sense that the district switches hands again from Smith to Democratic challenger Nate Looney.  Again, what we’re trying to follow is how large a coattail Clinton can have even in  a state, she seems likely to lose by 15+.  By just increasing turnout, it seems that she may have a significant effect on these types of downballot races.