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Heated race for GOP-held House seat in Arkansas nears end

November 5, 2018
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)
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)

BRYANT, Ark. (AP) — Republican U.S. Rep. French Hill and Democratic challenger Clarke Tucker campaigned across central Arkansas Monday ahead of a midterm election where Democrats remained hopeful for an upset in the solidly red state.

The race between Hill and Tucker for Arkansas’ 2nd Congressional District has drawn heavy attention ahead of Tuesday’s midterm election in the state. The secretary of state’s office hasn’t predicted how many of the state’s nearly 1.8 million registered voters will cast a ballot, but more than 412,000 had voted early or absentee by Monday.

Tucker, a state legislator who has talked often about his battle with bladder cancer, said health care remained the predominant issue as he hoped to flip the district covering Little Rock and seven central Arkansas counties. President Donald Trump won Arkansas by about 27 percentage points two years ago, and the state hasn’t sent a Democrat to the U.S. House in eight years.

“I think the campaign we have run has broken through,” Tucker said before campaigning at a diner in Bryant, located 15 miles southwest of Little Rock. “Everywhere I go, I have people come up to me, and some people say, ‘Thank you for not just giving me something to vote against, but something to vote for.’”

Hill, who was first elected to the seat in 2014, said he remained optimistic about the race and was pointed to gains in the economy. The Republican lawmaker won re-election by more than 20 percentage points two years ago.

“My closing argument to the voters of the 2nd District is America is better off than it was two years ago and we’ve gotten progress made on a number of fronts...but we still have two major issues we have to work on in the next Congress, and that’s fixing the broken immigration system and the broken health care system,” Hill said after greeting motorists during the morning rush hour in Little Rock.

Arkansas’ election also features a hotly contested race for a state Supreme Court seat that has drawn heavy spending from a Washington-based conservative group. Justice Courtney Goodson faces a challenge from David Sterling, an attorney from the state Department of Human Services, for the non-partisan seat. Goodson last week lost a bid to block TV ads and mailers from the Republican State Leadership Committee, which has spent more than $1.2 million this fall on the high court race. Goodson lost her bid for chief justice two years ago after facing a similar barrage of outside spending.

Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson was in a strong position as he faced a challenge from Democrat Jared Henderson, a former Teach for America official. Republicans were also favored in the other three U.S. House races and the state’s other partisan statewide offices.

Arkansas’ ballot also features proposals to legalize casinos in four counties, raise the state’s minimum wage to $11 an hour by 2021 and further enshrine in the state’s constitution a voter ID requirement. Arkansas already has a voter ID law on the books.

Polls open in Arkansas at 7:30 a.m. and close at 7:30 p.m.

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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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