by Max Brantley
As I feared, things didn't look better when I awoke this morning.
* CONGRESS: There's a false equivalency in balancing the Democratic loss of the House with retention of the U.S. Senate. The Democratic Senate majority is better than a stick in the eye, but the 65-seat pickup in the House is THE story of the election. It's a national referendum on the Obama administration. It reverberated down to the tiniest local office. (See Arkansas.) U.S. Reps.-to-be Steve Womack, Tim Griffin and Rick Crawford can now join their colleague in spirit, Rep. Mike Ross, in tax cutting and spending reductions. Right? Newly elected Sen. John Boozman will be even less of a factor in the upper chamber than he was in the House. Politically, that doesn't seem to matter much.
* STATEWIDE OFFICES: Gov. Mike Beebe appeared to carry every county, including Benton. Perhaps he can spread a little pixie-dust on a devastated state Democratic Party. The latest results show Republicans will win lieutenant governor (Mark Darr); secretary of state (Mark Martin), and land commissioner (John Thurston). The margins were close — about 51-49 — but look insurmountable with only a few precincts out, particularly since the Pulaski vote is complete. These Republican statewide winners gathered near-identical votes, looking suspiciously akin to straight-ticket voting. Martin and Darr, particularly, linked their opponents to Barack Obama.
* LEGISLATURE: Disaster. Republicans swept the seven contested Senate races, cutting the Democrat majority to 20-15. Republican candidates are heading to an 18-seat pickup (to 46 of 100) in the state House, with one race yet to be decided in a special election because the winning Republican, Keith Crass, died shortly before election day. Another likely Republican winner, Tommy Fite, was ruled off the ballot and is still challenging that decision.
The times may have dictated this outcome regardless. But ... The Republican Party recruited candidates and many were fresh blood, not retreads. They began campaigning early and they campaigned hard. They polled relentlessly. They massaged voter lists for likely voters. They had huge infusions of cash from stealth campaign financiers — $30,000 funneled through former GOP executive director Clint Reed and an untold amount spent by the Koch-financed Americans for Prosperity. The Democratic Party, based on my conversations with some of its best politicians, seemed to run on anecdote and wishful thinking. That has to change or the numbers will only grow worse in two years. Yes, legislative candidates, too, were linked relentlessly with President Obama. Several House incumbents were beaten.
* LOCAL RACES: Republicans picked up three seats on the Pulaski County governing body by beating two incumbents and winning one open seat previously held by a Democrat.
* GET DRUNK: Wets won local option elections in Clark and Boone counties.
* BUT DON'T GET HIGH: Pot wasn't legalized in California.
* LAW BY POPULAR VOTE: Iowa voters removed three Supreme Court justices who joined the opinion legalizing same-sex marriage in Iowa. Voters in the state's most populous county did retain the lower court judge who started the case through the appeals process. Rural areas, energized by Iowa's vibrant (Mike Huckabee-loving) conservative Christian population, spelled the difference. It will set a pattern for more politics in judicial elections nationwide. Noted: Appeals Court Judge Karen Baker trounced Judge Tim Fox in the Arkansas Supreme Court runoff. It became clear in the final days that Baker was the darling of Republicans and Christian conservatives. Why? Perhaps we'll learn in her decisions next year.
FOR PULASKI VOTERS
Here's the precinct result list in Pulaski County, not very helpfully labeled. You'll need to know your precinct number.
Here's the vote summary for Pulaski County. When all was done, Joyce Elliott did lead Tim Griffin in the race for 2nd District Congress, by a few hundred votes. A liberal woman, with a union resume and friendliness to immigrants and a poorly funded and poorly focused campaign and a certain resemblance to the unpopular president, was a pretty good foil for a Washington Republican insider hatchetman's richly funded, maniacally disciplined and energetic campaign. 30,000-vote margins for a variety of Democratic candidates in Pulaski County indicate all is not lost in this regard. After the darkness of Ed Bethune came Vic Snyder, we can recall as we grasp desperately for a straw of consolation. However, a successful candidate will have to figure out a way to make some inroads into Republican fortress Saline County, where Griffin had a 16,000-vote edge. Maybe the county can be given in redistricting to Rep. Mike Ross.
Speaking of realignment: I'm more strongly in favor still of a Hillcrest secession movement. My precinct at Pulaski Heights Presbyterian, its polling place the mother church of liberal voters, went 1,128 to 483 for Joyce Elliott. Small consolation, I know. The wonder is how Griffin got almost 30 percent of the vote.