While the spotlight was focused on the Arkansas Democratic Senate runoff Tuesday night — where Sen. Blanche Lincoln pulled out a win — runoffs in two of the state’s open House seats also yielded November nominees for the party.
Chad Causey won the Democratic nomination in the 1st district by beating former state Sen. Tim Wooldridge, 51 percent to 49 percent. Causey is a former chief of staff to retiring Rep. Marion Berry (D), and he had his ex-boss’s support. Still, Wooldridge was viewed as the favorite heading into the runoff after he finished the first round of voting well ahead of Causey.
Causey will face Republican Rick Crawford in the general election in a district that has a decided conservative lean and that Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) easily carried in the 2008 presidential election. Crawford handily won his party’s nomination in the May 18 primary. Republicans have already indicated they will try to paint Causey as a Washington insider because of his time working on Capitol Hill.
The Little Rock-based 2nd district, meanwhile, is a prime pickup target for Republicans. Rep. Vic Snyder (D) is retiring, and Democratic state Sen. Joyce Elliott won her party’s nomination Tuesday and will face former U.S. Attorney Tim Griffin (R) in November.
Griffin is one of the National Republican Congressional Committee’s “Young Guns” candidates and has been touted on the national circuit. Elliott, an African-American who was the leading candidate going into the runoff, defeated state Speaker Robbie Wills 54 percent to 46 percent. Elliott led Wills 40 percent to 28 percent in the May 18 primary, but fell short of the 50 percent mark needed to avoid a runoff.
While Elliott is popular with black voters in the district, some Democrats argued that Wills had broader appeal and would be the stronger general election nominee.
Meanwhile, in the 3rd district open-seat race, Rogers Mayor Steve Womack (R) was leading state Sen. Cecile Bledsoe (R) by a slim 50.7 percent to 49.3 percent margin, with 92 percent of precincts reporting late Tuesday. Rep. John Boozman (R) is vacating the reliably Republican district to run against Lincoln in the Senate race, and whoever wins the GOP nomination is expected to coast to a November victory.