Upset: Republican wins surprise blowout in Arkansas Senate special election


Let’s read some 2014 tea leaves, shall we?

First, some background on an Arkansas special election that was decided earlier this week:

The special election for a northeast Arkansas Senate seat vacated by a lawmaker who resigned over ethics violations will be an early bellwether on the fight to protect the state’s Medicaid expansion, as well as Democrats’ chances in the November election. Voters head to the polls Tuesday to cast ballots in the special election between Democrat Steve Rockwell and Republican John Cooper for state Senate District 21 seat that covers the Jonesboro area. The winner will serve the remainder of the term of former state Sen. Paul Bookout – a Democrat. The race for Bookout’s seat between Rockwell and Cooper has centered on the key issue facing lawmakers when they return for next month’s fiscal session – whether to continue the state’s “private option” plan to expand Medicaid.

Craighead County has not been represented by a Republican in the state senate since reconstruction. An analysis from the left-wing Daily Kos explained the dynamics and significance of this race:

Craighead County is part of the Delta. As such, it is part of the rural Democratic coalition that dominated state politics for over a century. Today, county politics are still largely Democratic…On the politics side of things, this election is huge. Craighead County is a key area of the state for both Mark Pryor and Mike Ross to win (they need to get at minimum 49% of the vote in this county to win the state) If Rockwell can’t put up a decent showing, Democrats are going to have some serious issues going into 2014.

So here we had a contested race in a traditionally Democratic area, the outcome of which held significant implications for Mark Pryor’s re-election bid. An Obamacare-related controversy drove the campaign. Oh, and according to an email blast from the NRSC, the Republican candidate was outgunned on the spending front by a three-to-one margin. Your result:

KAIT-Jonesboro, AR-News, weather, sportsIt wasn’t even close. The victorious Cooper called his triumph a “statement win.” Indeed. I’d imagine Sen. Pryor can hear that statement loud and clear.