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Arkansas GOP congressman targeted by Democrats re-elected

November 7, 2018
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FILE - This combination of 2018 file photos shows Arkansas's 2nd Congressional District candidates in the November 2018 election from left, Democrat Clarke Tucker and incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. French Hill. (AP Photos/File)
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FILE - This combination of 2018 file photos shows Arkansas's 2nd Congressional District candidates in the November 2018 election from left, Democrat Clarke Tucker and incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. French Hill. (AP Photos/File)

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — A Republican congressman in central Arkansas won re-election Tuesday night, fending off a challenge from a cancer survivor who had criticized his vote for repealing the federal health care law as the GOP maintained control of the state’s four House districts.

Republican U.S. Rep. French Hill defeated Democratic challenger Clarke Tucker in the 2nd Congressional District race covering Little Rock and seven central Arkansas counties. Hill was first elected to the seat in 2014. The race also featured Libertarian nominee Joe Swafford.

Hill said his win showed voters agreed the district was better off, but said Congress needed to focus on fixes to the immigration and health care systems.

“We have to move for change to make our country better, and clearly those two are places where we have to work together and do that, on both sides of the aisle, and with leadership from our president,” Hill told supporters.

Democrats believed the 2nd District’s urban section gave the party a better chance than Arkansas’ three other congressional seats, where the GOP incumbents easily won re-election Tuesday night against long-shot Democratic rivals. In 2016, Trump won 52 percent of the 2nd district’s vote.

Tucker, a state legislator, talked often in the race about his bout with bladder cancer last year, and criticized Hill over his vote to repeal the federal health care law last year. Tucker underwent surgery and chemotherapy last year and is now cancer-free. Tucker said the experience and House Republicans’ vote to repeal the health care law motivated him to challenge Hill. The repeal effort failed in the Senate.

Tucker said he was proud of the campaign he ran, which he said remained focused on issues that matter to people in the district.

“We always knew it was going to be close,” Tucker said. “We just fell a little bit short tonight.”

Hill easily won his second term in 2016 by more than 20 percentage points, but has been on defense in the race. He has run a series of ads trying to link Tucker with national Democrats such as Nancy Pelosi and Hillary Clinton. He also has criticized Tucker as soft on immigration and for the times he voted “present” or didn’t cast a vote on controversial bills in the state House.

Hill’s campaign fund dwarfed Tucker’s, and the race drew the interest of national groups on both sides. Republican U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton’s PAC has run online ads and sent out mailers targeting Tucker, while the Democrats’ congressional campaign arm has run TV spots attacking Hill over health care. Both candidates last month condemned a political action committee’s radio ad in favor of Hill that suggested white Democrats would lynch black Americans if they won the midterm election.

Republican Rep. Steve Womack, who chairs the House Budget Committee, defeated Democrat Josh Mahony in northwest Arkansas’ 3rd District. In east Arkansas’ 1st Congressional District, Republican Rep. Rick Crawford defeated Democratic challenger Chintan Desai. Republican Rep. Bruce Westerman won over Democratic nominee Hayden Shamel in the 4th District in south Arkansas.

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Follow Andrew DeMillo on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ademillo

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For AP’s complete coverage of the U.S. midterm elections: http://apne.ws/APPolitics

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