Predicting election results and voter turnout may be a fool’s game, but I suspect there will be a good voter turnout in Southeast Arkansas this year.
Presidential election years always have a better turnout, but several additional factors come into play this election year. More groups, communities and organizations are sponsoring candidate forums to learn more about the candidates. The Southeast Arkansas TEA Party has become quite active generating voter interest in the election, and the Republican Party has become more active in Southeast Arkansas, particularly in Drew County where there are about 10 Republicans running for various offices.
Moreover, there is a full slate of candidates for county judge in counties where the incumbents are not seeking re-election. Ashley and Desha counties each have four Democrats on the ballot for county judge while Drew County has three and Lincoln County has two. (Bradley County Judge Keith Neely and Chicot County Judge Mack Ball are unopposed in their re-election bids).
Three of those counties have candidates for county judge with particularly interesting names: Roy Rodgers, Elvis Presley and Robin Hood. Roy Rodgers is a candidate in Desha County, Elvis Presley is a candidate in Lincoln County, and Robin Hood is a candidate in Drew County. And, yes, that’s their real names.
Democratic candidates for county judge in Lincoln County are Keith Robertson and Sam Stephens. The winner will face Elvis Presley in the November general election. No Republican filed for the office.
Democratic candidates for Desha County judge include Mary Ann Allen, Mark Powell, Richard L. Watts, current Desha County Clerk Beth McMahan and Roy Rodgers. The winner will face independent Carsell Mathis in November. No Republican filed for the office. The incumbent Desha County Judge Mark McElroy is not seeking re-election. He is running unopposed for the District 11 state House seat.
Candidates for Ashley County judge include Portland Mayor Larry Coulter, Dennis Holland, Jim L. Hudson, and Nick Martin, all Democrats. No Republican filed for the office in Ashley County. Emory Austin, the incumbent, is not seeking re-election.
Democratic candidates for Drew County judge include Jim Glennon, Bobby Harris, and Robin Hood. The Democratic nominee will face independent Robert Akin and Republican Jessie Griffin in November. Griffin is running unopposed for the Republican nomination. The incumbent Drew County Judge Damon Lampkin is not seeking re-election.
Lampkin’s wife, however, will be on the ballot. District 10 state Rep. Sheilla Lampkin, of Monticello, is running for the newly redrawn District 9 state House seat. Redistricting moved Lampkin from District 10 to District 9. She faces long-time Crossett School Board member Robert Cornelious in the May primary. The winner of that race will face the Republican nominee Gary Meggs, of Monticello, in November. Meggs, the director of bands at the University of Arkansas at Monticello, is unopposed for the Republican nomination. (Video: Cornelious and Lampkin.) The district includes most of Drew and Ashley counties.
In the District 10 state House race, one of the three Democrat candidates will face a Republican in November.
Jefferson County Judge Mike Holcomb, Star City Mayor Gene Yarbrough, and Dorothy Hall, of Sheridan, a retired associate director of the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service, are all seeking the Democratic nomination for the District 10 state House seat. The winner will face Rison businessman Charles Roberts in the November general election. Roberts is running unopposed for the Republican nomination. The newly redrawn district includes portions of Drew, Lincoln, Cleveland, Jefferson and Grant counties.
Arguably, one of the most interesting races in Arkansas this election year is the Fourth Congressional District race. Three Republicans and three Democrats are hoping to replace U.S. Rep. Mike Ross. Ross, a Democrat from Prescott, announced last summer that he would not seek re-election.
The Republican ballot will include Tom Cotton, John Cowart or Beth Anne Rankin. The Democratic ballot will include state Sen. Gene Jeffress, Hot Springs attorney Q. Byrum Hurst and D.C. Morrison, a conservative Democrat and virtual unknown who managed to garner 13 percent of the vote in the 2010 U.S. Senate race and force a run-off between the incumbent senator Blanche Lincoln and Lt. Gov. Bill Halter. Lincoln won the run-off but lost to Republican John Boozman in the November general election.
Three Democrats are seeking party nomination for the First Congressional District seat. They are: Scott Ellington, Clark M. Hall, and Gary Latanich. The winner will face the incumbent Republican Rick Crawford in November.
Another interesting race in Southeast Arkansas is the District 26 state Senate race where a sitting state representative and two former state representatives are seeking the Democratic nomination. State Rep. Eddie Cheatham and former state Rep. Johnnie Bolin, both of Crossett, and former state Rep. Gregg Reep, of Warren, will all be on the Democratic ballot. The winner of the primary will face Republican Mike Akin, a Monticello businessman, in the November general election. (Videos: Mike Akin, Johnnie Bolin, and Bolin, Cheatham and Reep.) The incumbent, state Sen. Jimmy Jeffress, is not seeking re-election due to term limits. Jeffress, incidentally, is the brother of Fourth District Congressional candidate Gene Jeffress.
Heading the Arkansas ballots will be the presidential candidates. Four Republicans and two Democrats are seeking their party’s nomination for president. Two of the four Republican candidates, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich, have ended their campaigns.
In the non-partisan judicial races, two candidates are on the ballot for the Position 4 seat on the state Supreme Court. They are: Arkansas Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Raymond Abramsom and Court of Appeals Judge Jo Hart. For a list of candidates in local non-partisan judicial races and the preferential primary races, see the links below for local filings.
I encourage you to learn about these candidates and their position on issues that are important to you and support the candidate of your choice in the May primary.
Early and absentee voting begins Monday and runs through May 21, the day before the preferential primary and non-partisan judicial elections. Runoff elections, if necessary, will be held on June 12. The general election is November 6.