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Heated court fight, US House race dominate Arkansas election

May 20, 2018
In this May 7, 2018, photo, a sign is posted above the check-in station for an early voting precinct at the Roosevelt Thompson Library in Little Rock, Ark., warning voters that they will be asked to show an identification card. Democratic and Republican voters on Tuesday, May 22, 2018, will choose nominees for the November general election, and all voters are eligible to vote in non-partisan court and prosecuting attorney races. (AP Photo/Kelly P. Kissel)
In this May 7, 2018, photo, a sign is posted above the check-in station for an early voting precinct at the Roosevelt Thompson Library in Little Rock, Ark., warning voters that they will be asked to show an identification card. Democratic and Republican voters on Tuesday, May 22, 2018, will choose nominees for the November general election, and all voters are eligible to vote in non-partisan court and prosecuting attorney races. (AP Photo/Kelly P. Kissel)

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — A race for an Arkansas Supreme Court seat that has drawn heavy spending from outside groups and a four-person race for the Democratic nomination to run for a Little Rock-area U.S. House seat headline the ballot in the state’s primary and non-partisan judicial election this week.

The Arkansas Secretary of State’s office hasn’t predicted how many of the state’s 1.7 million registered voters will cast a ballot in Tuesday’s election. More than Election day polls open Tuesday at 7:30 a.m. and close at 7:30 p.m.

Here are some things to watch:

CONGRESS

The Democratic race for a U.S. House seat features a state legislator being pushed by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee as the party’s best chance to reclaim the Republican district and three candidates running to his left, especially on health care. State Rep. Clarke Tucker has outpaced his primary rivals in fundraising for the 2nd Congressional District seat held by Republican U.S. Rep. French Hill. Tucker is running against schoolteachers Paul Spencer and Gwen Combs, and Jonathan Dunkley, the director of operations for the University of Arkansas’ Clinton School of Public Service. If no one wins a majority, the top two will compete in a June 19 runoff. In northwestern Arkansas’ 3rd Congressional District, incumbent Rep. Steve Womack is being challenged by Fayetteville pastor Robb Ryerse in the GOP primary. Republican Rep. Bruce Westerman, who represents southern and western Arkansas’ 4th District, is being challenged by Randy Caldwell, a preacher.

ARKANSAS SUPREME COURT

State Supreme Court Justice Courtney Goodson’s re-election bid has been overshadowed by a pair of conservative groups that have been blitzing the state with television ads and mailers. Goodson is running against Appeals Court Judge Kenneth Hixson and Department of Human Services Chief Counsel David Sterling for the non-partisan seat. The Judicial Crisis Network, which targeted Goodson during her unsuccessful campaign to be chief justice two years ago, has spent more than $765,000 on TV ads criticizing Goodson and Hixson, according to the Brennan Center for Justice, which tracks judicial campaign spending. The Republican State Leadership Committee has spent more than $564,000 on TV ads and mailers in support of Sterling. The RSLC has also been running ads criticizing state Appeals Court Judge Bart Virden and backing Johnnie Copeland, who is trying to unseat him.

GOVERNOR

Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson is fending off a challenge from Jan Morgan, a gun rights activist and cable news commentator who declared her Hot Springs gun range “Muslim-free” in 2014. Morgan will have a difficult time unseating Hutchinson, who has been generally popular and has dwarfed her in fundraising. Morgan has tried to portray Hutchinson as insufficiently conservative on several issues, including gun rights, health care and taxes. Hutchinson has touted $150 million in income tax cuts he has signed into law and the $180 million more in cuts he wants to give to the state’s wealthiest people. The Democratic primary pits Jared Henderson, a former Teach for America executive, against Leticia Sanders, a hair braider from Maumelle.

VOTER ID

The primary is the first statewide test of a revived voter ID law the Legislature approved last year. Voters will be required to show photo identification before casting a ballot, but voters without ID can still cast provisional ballots if they sign sworn statements confirming their identities. The state Supreme Court earlier this month said election officials can enforce the law in the primary, despite a judge declaring it unconstitutional.

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Follow Andrew DeMillo on Twitter: https://twitter.com/ademillo

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