After what felt like forever, the 2020 elections are mostly over. I’m sure the counting of results in the Presidential and a handful of other races will drag out for a couple more weeks, but for the most part, everything is final.
In Arkansas, Republicans did what many assumed wasn’t possible and grew their majorities in the legislature. Additionally, we gave President Trump an impressive margin of victory and Congressman French Hill won re-election by over 10 points in a campaign that tracked very competitively throughout early voting.
So what changed and what have we learned?
For starters, and unfortunately for Democrats, it appears the red wave over Arkansas isn’t going away anytime soon. Many legislative and local campaigns saw higher turnout and larger wins for Republicans than previous campaigns. The fact former Vice President Biden topped 50% in only six counties is something that any locally elected Democrat across the state should pay attention to.
Pulaski County showed up in a big way for State Senator Joyce Elliot, giving her nearly 60% of votes cast. However, the remaining counties in the Second Congressional District showed up big for Congressman French Hill, with three of those counties giving him over 75% of the vote. We will have to watch how these results could have an impact on redistricting next year.
Democrats want a congressional seat they can win, or at least compete in. Results over the past few cycles suggest that the only way to do that is to create congressional districts that look nothing like what we currently have, and, most likely, for them to look extremely gerrymandered. Those facts are good news for Republicans, but this could show a potential path for some people on both sides wanting to split Pulaski County up.
In the State Senate, Republicans picked up two seats in South Arkansas, bringing the Senate to 28-7. While two seats may not sound like many, Senators-Elect Ben Gilmore and Charles Beckham will have an impact on committee selections later this week. It should be fun to see what gets on State Agencies, Education, and Public Health.
There remain two seats in the State House where votes are still being counted, districts 32 and 38. However, it looks like Republicans are on track to pick-up three other districts. Howard Beaty and former member Mark McElroy have made some big wins for Republicans in South Arkansas. Additionally, it looks like David Tollett will take a seat in the Delta after a final review of a lawsuit in front of the Arkansas Supreme Court. Tollett’s opponent was removed from the ballot by a lower court.
In House districts 32 and 38, incumbent Republican Representatives Jim Sorvillo and Carlton Wing currently have a slight lead. If that holds, the session will be 79-21 in favor of Republicans.
Issue 1 and 2 both passed, providing a long-term solution for highway funding, and putting reasonable term limits on legislators. Issue 3 failed, meaning the people can still easily add constitutional amendments to the ballot.
With the elections behind us, the things that watch moving forward are how much chaos is created during session due to concerns over COVID, the redistricting process, and how long Republican’s will stay on cruise control before kicking off what will be a fun filled 2022 Republican Primary.