One story of the 2006 elections in Arkansas is the top-to-bottom success of Democratic candidates in predominantly Republican counties.
In this regard, Faulkner County makes an interesting case study, particularly because it is state Republican Party chairman Gilbert Baker's home turf, and he tried to exert some of his muscle in behalf of local Republican candidates there. He even got the "independent" GOP 527 committee, Coalition for Arkansas's Future, involved in some of the local races.
Our Faulkner County correspondent (who will remain anonymous) submits this analysis:
While the rest of the states, country and Michael J. Fox are busy telling each other that all politics are not local, the storyline in Faulkner County is running to the contrary. The most talked about races are a county judges race and a state house seat. While both resulted in democratic winners, in a county where Mike Beebe failed to get 50% of the vote (he still won with 49.9), it’s hard to claim/blame state or nat’l coattails.
The first race was state representative Preston Scroggin (D) versus Justice of the Peace Catherin Blankenship (R) for county judge. This race, as noted in the Arkansas Blog, had the honor of being the only county government race that the conservative attack 527, Coalition for Arkansas’ Future, participated in. CFAF did a countywide mailer touting Blankenship’s record of leadership and her ability to “ensure that education dollars stay in the classroom.” Whatever. Scroggin won handily 59% to 41%.
Second, the race to fill Rep. Scroggin’s Dist 47 seat was between Eddie Hawkins of Mt. Vernon and Cody Hiland of Greenbrier. Eddie Hawkins was also lucky enough to draw the attention of CFAF. Eddie beat Cody 51% to 49% in Faulkner County. Highly democratic and neighboring Conway County put the real distance between these two in a race that ended up 53-47.
It’s obvious that the Faulkner County Republicans (Sen. Gilbert Baker, Clint Reed, Dan Rhea with CFAF) have run the state party into the ground. The more compelling question locally is, are they capable of winning a race in their own backyard. The state chairmanship of the GOP by Sen. Baker has, no doubt, led to additional republican resources coming to Faulkner County. Since then they have, at best, held ground. At worst, they have lost the battle for Faulkner Co.’s soul/future/. A note to Senator Baker… the next race you lose may be your own.