Heard from all the Republican speakers at the GOP shindig at the Embassy Suites: “It’s a great night for Arkansas Republicans.”
Heard from several post-Ohio tally news at the Obama party at Stickyz and the Democratic Party gig at Cotham’s: “Thank God.”
President Barack Obama saved the night for Arkansas’s Democrats, who watched, without surprise but still with horror, as the Arkansas General Assembly went Republican.
The vast amounts of money from right-wing interests out of state who have Arkansas Republicans on a string was in evidence tonight at the Embassy Suites: Klieg lights in front of the hotel announced the party from a mile away, Hollywood style; inside, the huge ballroom was fitted out with huge flat screen monitors and projected images across the stage and filled to the brim with a merry crowd, folks dressed mostly in red and virtually all white. Waitresses balancing trays of multiple tumblers of bourbon made their way through the tightly packed room as Republican Party of Arkansas head Doyle Webb brought notables to the stage, like Sen. John Boozman, who recalled a time in the state legislature when his colleagues would point at him and say “there’s the Arkansas Republican caucus’ senior member and its junior member.” Asa Hutchinson, referring to the lights outside, said, “I can remember a day when you might not want to call attention” to a Republican gathering, then more “clandestine” than front and center. Kim Darr, the wife of Lt. Gov. Mark Darr, and two of her friends told a reporter they were new to politics and Darr himself, joining them, said his own political interest was recent, dating to the 2008 election.
There were a few African Americans at the party; one of them, Chianti Madkins, 19, of Ashdown and a sophomore at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, has been interning with the party since September. The political science, business management and philosophy major — with a full ride to UALR — voted for Mitt Romney, said, because of her dislike of Obamacare, which she sees as government intrusion, and because of the initial omission of any references to God in the Democratic Party platform. Madkins was well-spoken and sharp as a tack; look for her in politics in the future.
Also there: Dr. Michael Douglas, who is a member of the Little Rock Technology Authority Board. “Everyone here is for the tech park,” he said, kidding a reporter, “as long as there’s no tax money” invested, his wife interjected.
Earlier at the former Pinky Punky dress shop in Breckenridge Village at the watch party for Barbara Graves, whose challenge to Rep. Allen Kerr was one of those Democrats thought would be crucial for their party retaining control of the state House watch, the crowd had barely made a dent in the plump shrimp and fat sandwiches before Graves conceded to Kerr and thanked her workers. “I’m very disappointed,” she said. “We know the billionaires out of state poured money in here … It doesn’t bode well for Arkansas.” Supporter Larry Choate thanked Graves for “having the courage” to run.
Second Congressional District hopeful Herb Rule, trailing Republican incumbent Rep. Tim Griffin, was upbeat early in the evening. “I feel good,” he told a reporter. Did he feel optimistic? “I feel good.”
Lindsey Millar contributed reporting.