Ground shifting in the 1st District Democratic primary | Arkansas Blog

Ground shifting in the 1st District Democratic primary

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FAVORITE IN FIRST: Scott Ellington
  • FAVORITE IN FIRST: Scott Ellington
The Arkansas Democratic primary race for 1st District Congress has had a change of status inj the ranking of "red-to-blue" races on the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee website. In red-to-blue races, the DCCC offers money and other support to candidates. It had listed state Rep. Clark Hall of Marvell previously as an emerging red-to-blue candidate. No one is currently listed by name in that category in the race, which features a runoff between Hall and Prosecutor Scott Ellington of Jonesboro.

CORRECTION: The DCCC says that my original post erred because Hall had never been listed in the top red-to-blue category, though he had been listed by name in the "emerging" candidate portion of the red-to-blue webpage. Now the DCCC merely says District 1 is a candidate for a Democratic win, but it explains that this is because of entry of Ellington after it had given a designation to Hall.

Is it because there's now a runoff (Ellington darn near won the race outright)? Well, it didn't immediately seems so, because this morning Q. Byrum Hurst was listed by name among "emerging" candidates. He's in a runoff for the 4th District Democratic nomination with Sen. Gene Jeffress. Since this morning, Hurst's name has been moved out or the ranking and District 4 now appears as a potential Democratic pickup, without a specific name. District 1 is in the same posture.

Hurst's messy legal practice and difficult financial life are well-known. But I'm not among those scoffing at his candidacy against Republican boy wonder Tom Cotton of Washington, D.C., the Club for Growth's cutout in the race. Cotton has the charisma of a turnip. Hurst is a loquacious rascal whose primary ads strummed old Democratic themes. If issues and personality mattered (Cotton WILL wreck Medicare, Medicaid and other programs vital to the interest of the poor 4th District), Hurst could make a race of it. But, if voters are going to vote an automatic R in that region, as they often did in 2010, well, it doesn't much matter.

But back to Ellington. News began bubbling yesterday about a story reported in the D-G today over his wife's court dispute over a big credit card debt. Ellington disclosed this on his financial filing a month ago and the oppo researchers pushed the story into print shortly before the runoff. If you want a conspiracy theory, here's one: Maybe this isn't the work of Clark Hall oppo research; maybe it's the work of Republican oppo research. Oh, OK, it's probably Clark Hall. But I read of this problem first on a Republican blog, coincidentally. Ellington, with his name recognition and base in the region's most populous area, is the stronger of the two Democratic candidates. Republicans would be happy to see him beaten now or, if nothing else, begin the softening up process early. I'd say Ellington's financial problems are just about a dead heat against Republican incumbent Rick Crawford's past bankruptcy and his resistance to talking about his past financial woes. Ellington has volunteered his credit history. I also don't see a big pro-credit card industry vote developing in the 1st District.

UPDATE (IN ADDITION TO EDITS OF PREVIOUS PORTIONS): THE DCCC wants to emphasize that it still believes District 1 and 4 are potential Democratic wins and that the shifting of Hall's status reflects only that he was alone in the race when first tabbed as a red-to-blue "emerging" candidate and it's now a runoff. Either way, the DCCC says, incumbent Crawford has built a record that makes him vulnerable.

UPDATE: Yep, there's no doubt that Clark Hall's campaign is not only behind the credit card story, it's proud of it. News release follows:

First district congressional candidate Clark Hall's campaign manager, Forest Boles, released the following statement this morning in reaction to news that his opponent, Scott Ellington, has a history of unpaid debts, including thousands of dollars in unpaid federal taxes, state taxes, and credit card bills.

"Blamed others for $20k in unpaid federal taxes and penalties that dragged on for four years... Another $20k in credit card debt blamed on his wife… This is a pattern of financial irresponsibility than has gone on for years.

"It's one thing to say the debts are 'disclosed'; it's quite another to step up and take responsibility. The last thing we need is another person in Congress who thinks it's OK to run up debts, kick the can down the road on paying them, and then blame someone else.

"Scott Ellington isn't a bad person, but his problems managing money are exactly the kind of problems Clark Hall means when he says, 'Washington doesn't get it.' Scott Ellington would be an incredibly weak Democratic nominee for Congress because financial irresponsibility is not a fault that voters are going to look favorably on this November."

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