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Democrats’ Resurgence in Arkansas Looks Less Likely

Hayes ran in Arkansas' 2nd District last cycle, but lost. (Meredith Dake/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Hayes ran in Arkansas' 2nd District last cycle, but lost. (Meredith Dake/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

With Hillary Rodham Clinton likely to be the Democratic presidential nominee, Democrats hoped that their party could make Arkansas competitive with the state’s former first lady on the ballot.  

But with the state’s filing deadline  having come and gone on Monday, Democrats failed to recruit candidates in three of the four House districts in the state, deflating Democrats’ chances for an Arkansas resurgence in 2016.  

The one Democrat running for a seat in the House, in the Little Rock-based 2nd District, is Dianne Curry, the former president of the Little Rock School Board.  

But Curry, who filed the paperwork to run in early September, did not report fundraising numbers in the third quarter — not a promising sign for her candidacy. Any candidate that raises more than $5,000 is required to report it to the Federal Election Commission.  

In 2014, Democrats recruited two strong contenders to make a play for two open-seat races in the state.  

Former North Little Rock Mayor Patrick Henry Hayes, a longtime local elected official with a folksy charm, ran in the 2nd District.  

Democrats’ polling showed Hayes leading now-Rep. French Hill in September 2014, and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spent money on television to support Hayes’ bid, even as they were cutting their losses in races where they no longer saw a chance of victory. Still, Hayes ultimately came up 8 points short a few months later.  

In the 4th District — which was vacant because incumbent Tom Cotton was running for the Senate — Democrats touted former Clinton administration FEMA Director James Lee Witt as the kind of Democrat who could win in this GOP-leaning seat. In fact, the race looked competitive up until Election Day.  

But Witt went on to lose to now-GOP Rep. Bruce Westerman by an 11-point margin.  

To be sure, Hayes and Witt out-performed President Barack Obama. (Obama lost the 2nd District by a 12-point margin and the 4th District by a 26-point margin in 2012.)  

This cycle, both races are rated Safe Republican by the Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report /Roll Call.  

The DCCC declined to comment for this story.  

At the Senate level, Democrats recruited former U.S. Attorney Conner Eldridge to run against GOP Sen. John Boozman. But even with Boozman’s paltry third-quarter fundraising haul, the race looks like a serious uphill challenge for Democrats.  

Last cycle, Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor, whom Democrats said would benefit from his well-known and well-liked family brand in the state, lost re-election by a 17-point margin in 2014.  

The Senate race is rated a Safe Republican contest by the Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report/Roll Call.  


Roll Call Race Ratings Map: Ratings for Every House and Senate Race in 2016

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