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Can the west be won?

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Can a Democrat win a House race in western Little Rock? To test that proposition, the Democrats have a strong candidate for House District 32, now held by Republican Allen Kerr. She's Barbara Graves, owner of a women's wear store in western Little Rock and a former Chamber of Commerce president and former city director who made a strong race for mayor against Mark Stodola.

Kerr's battle against state employee double-dipping will give him some electoral power (if not with state employees). But he totes a fair amount of baggage, too, including prime gender gap material in his opposition to the Obama rule to require health care plans to cover preventive health care, including birth control pills, for women. Kerr also will have questions to answer about the circumstances of his departure as an agent for an insurance company he'd long represented. Graves' announcement stressed her record as a "consensus builder." Kerr has been solidly part of the Republican bloc that has brought Washington-style partisanship to the Arkansas legislature.

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