Saturday, November 14, 2020

Pulaski County Election Commission Find improperly Counted Ballots and Improperly Excluded Ballots in a Lively Meeting - Results Flip House District 32 and Narrows District 38

It is now over ten days since Election Day but Pulaski County is still trying to get their absentee ballots and provisional ballots totaled.  It is a tricky process to begin with as the amount of absentee ballots have grown several time over due to COVID fears.  Add to this that the Commission staff work for Democratic Pulaski County Judge Barry Hyde and not the Republican controlled Election Commission.  There is a clear distrust with a long history.  A staff member has even flied a police report against a commissioner for entering his office this week.

Such was the setting for a meeting on Friday at 5:00 pm scheduled to certify the election result now that all military ballot should be in for Friday's due date.  But the meeting went sideways...very sideways.

The meeting began with Commissioner Stahr and Chair Gomez wanting to bring in Saline County Election Commissioner Jamie Clemmer to help.  This angered Director of Elections Bryan Poe who stormed out of his room saying "I'll be in my office if you need me." After a long pause, Poe finally returned and by this time Clemmer had arrived from Saline County.

The meeting began with Poe explaining that 327 ballots that had been disqualified by the Commission were included in the count by mistake.  Of this group, 32 ballots were in the super close house district 32 race and 37 ballots were in the close district 38 race.  He could offer no explanation as to why.

But things got worse from there.  Poe then reported the number of provisional ballots count as voted by the Commission last night.  Only problem is that the numbers did not match.  It seems about 23 ballots had gone mission.  Commissioner Stahr pressed Poe saying "Where are the ballots we approved?"

After a recess, Commissioners began going through boxes of ballots that had been approved by the Commission to be counted and they began discovering that many of these ballots were not showing up on their list that should have been counted.  Several hours of searching for these ballots began with a new ballot that should have been counted turning up every few minutes.

So to recap.

Director Poe admitted that he (1) counted ballots that had been disallowed and (2) lost ballots that were supposed to be counted.  

With all confidence lost the Commissioners began going through box by box of ballots continually finding errors.  "Sometimes people make mistakes," was the defense offered by Poe.

Commissioners spent twelve hours of counting before finally reaching the end.  Goofiness abounded as tired Commissioners and staff get reinforcements from food and caffeine and Christmas music late into the night.

Around 2:30 am, the Commission finished their search. They came back about 3:00 am for another round for about an hour. They approved the handful of provisional ballots that they found and they moved on to certifying voting sites for the runoff elections.

What is the rush?  The election is required to be certified by the Commission on Wednesday, November 18 (Ark. Code § 7-5-701(a)(1)) and they expect house district 32 and/or house district 38 will have a recount do to the close margins.  The first unofficial count has to be made so the recount can be requested if it is desired by the campaigns which seems likely.

Vote are finally posted around 4:00 am.  The lead switched in house district 32 but not house district 38.  Here is where is currently stands...

District 32

Rep. Jim Sorvillo (R)  - 8.378 (49.93%)

Ashley Hudson (D) - 8,403 (50.07%)

25 vote lead for Hudson

District 38

Rep. Carlton Wings (R) - 7,099 (50.06%)

Matthew Stallings (D) - 7,083 (49,94%)

16 vote lead for Wing

Expect recounts in both these race and lots more drama ahead.

Monday, November 2, 2020

Six Predictions for Election Day

In the wise words of Tom Petty - "The waiting is the hardest part."  The final election day votes are being cast as politicophiles such as myself develop politicophobia by the minute.  Here are my bold predictions for Election Day in Arkansas.

1. Cheese Enchiladas - Perhaps the most important thing I am looking forward to is continuing my tradition of eating cheese enchiladas while watching the election results.  This began for me in 2000 as I read somewhere this is George W. Bush's favorite food.  I have since read it is actually cheeseburger pizza but I am sticking with enchiladas.  Great article here on all the President's favorite foods so choose your snacking accordingly. 

Prediction - I consume between four to five enchiladas by end of the night.

Result - I only made it to three enchiladas before I got full.

2. An Inconclusive Presidential Race - All signs point towards a lack of decision on Election Day.  Below is my shot at what a the map might look like around midnight - courtesy of RealClearPolitics map maker - but the counting process for Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin lends itself to drag on for several days.  There are a high number of absentee votes that will not be counted by the day's end.  Several counties in Pennsylvania have announced they will not even start counting absentee ballots until Wednesday.  And since Biden will do better with absentee voters and Trump will do better with election day voters, it is entirely possible Trump will be leading at the end of Tuesday and then have this change as absentee ballots are counted.  

Prediction - At midnight, Trump will have 260 electors and Biden will have 232 with the remaining 3 states holding 46 electors still in doubt.

Result - I was pretty spot on expect for Arizona where I failed to account for the all important "McCain Factor."  (Epilogue - the final result is going to be VERY close.  My guess is Biden 270 over Trump 268 and after a LOOOOOOOONG fight including pressure on the Faithless Electors of the Electoral College.)

3. French Hill vs. Joyce Elliott - The Second Congressional District race is THE RACE in Arkansas which honestly most people were not expecting.  The Cook Political Report moved this races from Leans R to Toss Up on Monday.  FiveThirtyEight still gives Hill a 66 percent chance of winning but it is getting tighter.  The math here is fairly simple - can Elliott run up enough of a lead in Pulaski County to overcome Hill's lead everywhere else?  In 2018, Democratic candidate Clarke Tucker won Pulaski by 27,671 votes but lost the election by 15,990 votes. Another question is can Elliott narrow Hill's lead in Faulkner and Saline Counties - the two biggest counties outside of Pulaski.  Early voting points to increase turnout across the board which I think is a good sign for Hill..maybe.

Prediction - Rep. Hill wins by fewer points than the number of enchiladas I consume. 

Result - I called it correctly for Hill but it really was not very close. Hill increased his margin from 2018 from seven points to ten points by performing even better in suburbs. Hill more than doubled my enchilada ratio.

4. Sen. Bruce Maloch vs. Generic R - Republicans currently control 26 out of 35 Arkansas Senate seats and this is likely to change little after Tuesday.  The most likely flip is Democratic Sen. Eddie Cheatham who is expected to lose to Republican Ben Gilmore down in south Arkansas district 26.  But the closest race has be Sen. Bruce Maloch's fight for survival in district 12 where he is doing his best to fight back a red tidal wave.  His challenge is to get voters in his district who overwhelmingly are voting for President Donald Trump and Congressman Bruce Westerman to flip tickets and pick him in the state senate race.  If voters are paying attention, they will.  Maloch has raised over $193,000 spending $150,000 of it on an advertising company in Little Rock called The Friday Group so he is doing everything he can to inform them.  And he is running a markedly conservative campaign such as this ad.  His opponent Charles Beckham is not well known and what little press he has had has been negative. But he has an (R) after his name on the ballot so that might be enough.

Prediction - Sen. Maloch loses a race he deserves to win.  Republicans pick up 2 seats for 28 seats out 35 seats in the Senate.

Result - I called this spot on.  Senate will now have 28 out of 35 Republicans as the GOP swept south Arkansas.  Good for the GOP brand and all but Bruce of one of the last remaining conservative Democrats and an all around good guy so it is sad to see him go.

5.  Arkansas House Races in Little Rock Metro vs. Everywhere Else - Republicans also dominate the lower chamber with 74 seats in the House.  Two seats are vacant due to resignations related to job changes - one is a safe Republican district and one in a Democratic district where the Democrats nominated a (likely) illegible candidate.  So if nothing else changes Republicans will have 76 seats.  The story to watch is how different candidate inside of the Little Rock metro area perform compared to those outside the area.  As I wrote about last week, Republicans Reps. Jim Sorvillo, Carlton Wing, and Karilyn Brown face a struggle to hold their seats against well funded Democratic challengers buoyed by a competitive Congressional race.  The most colorful of these has been Rep. Wing's battle against fire fighter Matthew Stallings.  Stalling was outraged that Wing took credit for supporting pro-firefighter legislation in a campaign mailer. He made an extremely emotion video where he was so upset that he has to get up and leave the shot several times. Outside of the LR metro, the state is becoming even brighter red as indicated by the latest UA Arkansas Poll  - 65% of Arkansans prefer President Trump to 32% for Joe Biden and about twice as many Arkansans identify as Republicans rather than Democrats.  This environment will help House members pick up a few seats around the state such as in southeast district 9 where Howard Betty (R) is expected to unseat Rep. LeAnne Burch (D) and district 11 where former Rep. Mark McElroy (R/was I/ was D) challenges Rep. Don Glover (D). And in northwest district 89 where Jed Duggar (R - of Duggar family fame) challenges Rep. Megan Godfrey (D) is a district she barely won by 29 in 2018.  

Prediction - Rep. Sorvillo loses a close one but Rep. Wing and Rep. Brown hold on. Republicans make up for it by flipping at least one district around the state and hold 76 seats out of 100.

Results - Democrats did keep it close in Pulaski but right now all the incumbent Republicans have held their seats albeit by only 107/108 votes in two races.  Republicans picked up district 9 and 11 in their south Arkansas sweep and should also pick up district 12 in the court challenge.  I believe this puts Republicans with 78 79 seats out of 100 but will double check this math when all results are finalized.

6. Issue 3 - There are three issues on the ballot but only one with its fate really in doubt.  Issue 1 enacts a permanent a half cent sales tax for roads and for some reason Arkansas voters seem to always approve these type of proposals.  Issue 2 has a ballot title that no one understands but sounds like it creates term limits for state legislator.  In reality, it is just modifies existing term limits in strange and unusually ways but it sounds good from the description so it will pass.  Issue 3 however is a different matter entirely.  In short, the measure would make it more difficult for future ballot measures to get on the ballot.  Arkansans like our ballot measures and tend to vote against anything that hints of taking our of ability to have a voice in the process. We take are motto - Regnat Populus - seriously.  However, a coordinated effort from prominent Republicans such as Sen. Tom Cotton have advocated for the measure giving it a boost.  

Prediction - This one will be Populism vs. Republicanism.  I give Populism odds.  Issue 3 fails.

Results - I called this one spot on. Issue 1 and 2 passed. Issue 3 failed.

What did miss?  Where am I wrong?  What other predictions do you want to know about?  And what snack food are you eating on Tuesday? Let me know on twitter @TolbertARPX and follow me on election night.

Monday, October 26, 2020

Jimmie Wilson Ruled Ineligible for Arkansas House

The ongoing saga in Arkansas House District 12 took a turn toward the Republican candidate David Tollett today when Circuit Court Judge Mackie Pierce ruled that Democratic candidate Jimmie Wilson is not qualified to serve as a State Representative.

The ruling is from a re-filed case by Republican Party of Arkansas.  A recap is linked here on the previous events but the summary is that an attorney friendly to Arkansas Democrats filed and lost an inept case challenging Democratic candidate Jimmy Wilson.  The Supreme Court agreed with the lower court decision but allowed the case to be refiled.

The Republican Party of Arkansas apparently had much better lawyers as they won their case today.

"Jimmy Wilson was convicted of crimes that disqualify him under Article V, Section 9 of the Arkansas Constitution from sitting as a Representative in the Arkansas General Assemble," wrote the Court in its ruling. "The Court further finds that Mr. Wilson's pardon did not restore his eligibility to sit as a Representative in the Arkansas General Assembly."

While the Court granted the petition to prohibit any counting of voter for Wilson and prohibit his certification as the elected Representative, it did stay the order pending an anticipated "immediate" appeal from the "Democrat (sic) Party" to the Arkansas Supreme Court.

“David Tollett, Superintendent of the Barton School District, will become the first Republican to represent Phillips County and District 12 in the Arkansas General Assembly since Reconstruction," said Republican spokesman Seth Mays. "Judge Mackie Pierce was correct in ordering Jimmie Lee Wilson not qualified to serve. The Democratic Party of Arkansas should never have nominated him in the first place, let alone defend him through the court system. Their own research said as much. Representative Tollett will serve the citizens of District 12 with integrity in the Arkansas House of Representatives and will stand strong for the values of the Arkansas Delta.”

I am thankful that the judge ruled in our favor today," said Tollett. "I look forward to representing all the people of district 12 whether they voted for me or not. It's finally time we move District 12 forward."

This one is a pick up for Republicans...for now.

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Hill Elliott Race Impacts Several Arkansas House Campaigns

Although 39 Arkansas House races will have a general election contest this fall, most predict little change in the make up of party make up of the lower chamber which currently has 76 Republicans to 24 Democrats. Of these, 46 Republicans and 15 Democrats face no general election opponent.

One area that does have some competitive races is in central Arkansas where the very active Second Congressional District race between Congressman French Hill and State Sen. Joyce Elliot is turning out voters on both sides on the aisle.  Several house candidates are feeling the impact of the Congressional race.

Chaz Nuttycombe with CNalysis - a website which rates state legislative races - has four of these races rating as competitive - two lean R (meaning there if 70% chance the Republican will win,) one tilt R (meaning there is a 60% the Republican will win),  and one predicted to flip from Republican to Democrat.

"At the end of the day, there probably won't be much change in the Arkansas House. If there is, it'll be an overperformance for Democrats, having a net gain thanks to the battles for the suburbs in Little Rock, or maybe they flip the seat in Rogers, which is also trending toward them," said Nuttycombe.

Rep. Sorvillo (R) v. Hudson (D) - District 32 - Rated Flip R to D - The most likely district to filp is west Little Rock district 31 where Republican incumbent Rep. Jim Sorvillo is fighting off Democratic challenger Ashley Hudson.  Sorvillo won the seat in 2014 with 57% of the vote but has had to fight off a challenge every two years with the district tightening each time.  In his most recent race, he won with only 53%.  Little Rock attorney Hudson has raised over $100,000 has spent over $63,000 through September.  By comparison, Sorvillo has raised only around $41,000 and spent just under $20,000 but he held a cash advantage of $67,000 to Hudson's $40,000 due to his campaign carryover funds so he could tighten the gap down the stretch.

Rep. Brown (R) v. Cotton (D) - District 41 - Rated Tilt R - Rep. Karilyn Brown was elected in 2014 without a general election opponent but had a Democratic challenger in 2016 and 2018.  She built her lead in the 2018 from 54% to 57% and she has raised around $59,000 but through September has only spent about $7,000.  Democratic challenger Jannie Cotton is likely to benefit from Joyce Elliott's voter turnout effort in this North Little Rock district.   

Rep. Wing (R) v. Stallings (D) - District 38 - Rated Lean R - This district has been close for several election after first flipping to Republican with Donnie Copland's 51% win in 2014. Rep. Carlton Wing won it in 2016 with 52% and in 2018 with 53%.  Wing has raised over $57,000 spent $10,000 but has over $88,000 still on hand.  Democrat Matthew Stallings has drawn his support largely from his fellow firefighters raising almost $70,000.  He has spent $25,000 and has $44,000 cash on hand through September.

Rep. Lowery (R) v. Applegate (D) District 39 - Rated Lean R - This Maumelle district has leaned heavily Republican for the last few elections but has remained somewhat competitive.  Rep. Mark Lowery won the seat in 2012 with 52%.  He has won two re-election challenges with 54%.  He has raised over $20,000 but has over $66,000 cash on hand from campaign carryover funds.  Attorney Kayla Applegate has raised only around $18,000 with about $4,000 of that remaining.

Outside of central Arkansas, Nuttycombe predicts one other seat to slip - this time from Democrat to Republican in south district 9 where Republican Howard Beaty is predicted to unseat Democratic Rep. LeAnne Burch.  A couple close race in northwest Arkansas include Springdale district 89 where Democratic Rep. Megan Godfrey is battle Republican Josh Duggar (of the Duggar family fame.) And open Rogers district 94 where Rep. Rebecca Petty is not seeking re-election. Republican John Carr is trying to hold the district against Democrat Jene Huffman-Gilreath.

One other possible unexpected pick up for Republican is east Arkansas District 12 where the Democratic candidate Jimmie Wilson faced a court challenge over his eligible due to his previous federal crime.

If everything goes as expected, the House chamber will still be about three-fourths Republican.

Read more on Nuttycombe ratings on his website for not only Arkansas but many state legislative races across the county.  Here is his full Arkansas map below.

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Teacher Union Misspells Elliott's Name in Ad

The National Education Association Advocacy Fund has an ad out supporting State Sen. Joyce Elliott in the hotly contested Second Congressional District race in Central Arkansas. The ad is good bio ad highlighting her past particularly as an educator in Arkansas.  The only problem - they repeatedly misspelled her name as "Joyce Elliot."

While advocacy groups do not coordinate with the official campaign - and clearly did not in this case - it's odd that a teachers' group would not know how spell the name of a candidate they spent thousands of dollars supporting.

Even more odd than this is an ad from Elliott's campaign discussing the 2017 tax cuts.  The claim made in this ad and made directly by Elliott in the recent debate on Arkansas PBS is that the 2017 tax cuts exactly raised taxes on the middle class.

"Let's talk about what's tough for Arkansas families. The 2017 tax cut was an absolute giveaway to the richest people in this country. It created a permanent tax increase for the middle class," claimed Elliott in the debate and reiterated in a tweet promoted by the Democratic Party of Arkansas.

What on earth is she talking about?  Her ad reveals a bit about where she is getting this.  The ad points to a December 18, 2017 study from the Tax Policy Center on the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017.  The problem here is that the study refutes Elliott's claim.

"Compared to current law, taxes would fall for all income groups on average in 2018, increasing overall average after-tax income by 2.2 percent," reads the study.

Did you catch that - "all income groups." That means it cut taxes for everyone - including the middle class.

The only plausible connection to Elliott's claim is a warning in the study that the tax cuts expire in 2027 after which the study finds that "low and middle-income taxpayers would see little change."  In other words, after the tax cuts expire, taxes will go up as there would no longer be tax cuts in place.

So here is where Elliott's logic gets really weird.  She is campaigning against the tax cuts saying they are a tax increase and saying she wants to repeal them.  Instead the tax proposal supported by her party would raise taxes by $2.4 trillion over the next decade according to another study by the Tax Policy Center - the same group Elliott cited in her campaign study.

So to recap - she is running against tax cuts saying they are really a tax increase and she wants to pass a tax increase in order to lower taxes.

And while we are talking taxes, you should read the story in the Arkansas Democrat today on Elliott's apparent problems paying her own taxes.  She eventually paid them but taxes can be awfully confusing.

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Court Affirms Part of the Ruling for Wilson But Allows a Do Over

Reader of this blog will note that I have followed with interest the odd Arkansas House race in district 12 (West Helena area.)  The resignation of Chris Richey following the primary lead to a strange Democratic nomination caucus where basically four Democrats selected former State Rep. Jimmie Wilson over the concerns expressed by the DPA that Wilson had been convicted of a federal crime.

Since the Arkansas constitution prohibits those convicted of "infamous crimes" for serving in the legislature, it's a slam dunk removal from the ballot right? Not exactly.

In summary, El Dorado attorney Caleb Baumgardner who has very strong ties to the DPA filed one of the most inept lawsuits ever which failed in so many ways - one of which was that he failed to serve Wilson with proper notice.  The filing was so poorly handled that the judge through it out "with prejudice" which is fancy lawyer talk for no do overs.

The Republican candidate David Tollett appealed to the Arkansas Supreme Court which ruled on this today.  In short, they agreed with the circuit court that Baumgernder is the worst election lawyer in El Dorado but gave Tollett a do over saying "we affirm the circuit court’s dismissal but modify it as a dismissal without prejudice."

They go into quite a bit of detail on whether Rule 78 or Rule 41 applies or something. I will let you lawyers argue over all that but in short it means Tollett can file his own case challenging Wilson's candidacy and does not have to be subjected to the ineptitude of Baumgardner.

"Finally, the circuit court did not address the merits of Tollett’s complaint in intervention. Because the circuit court properly dismissed Tollett’s complaint for a lack of service, we will not consider Wilson’s eligibility to serve as a member of the General Assembly," concluded the court.

The Republican Party of Arkansas spokesman Seth Mays tells me today a new challenge is on its way.

"Today our attorneys were affirmed in that our case should not have been dismissed with prejudice by the circuit court. The Arkansas Supreme Court notably did not rule on the merits of Mr. Wilson's ineligibility, which are quite clear. We will be re-filing this matter for an expedited hearing and an unobstructed chance to point out how Mr. Wilson's criminal past makes him unfit for office," said Mays.

Here is hope this new filling is done properly so a court has the ability to rule on the merits of the cases.  I a quite certain the members of the Arkansas House are hoping this as well so that they don't have to be put in the uncomfortable position of decide whether to seat Wilson assuming he does somehow win the general election in November.

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Poll Analyst Gives French Hill 77 Percent Chance of Winning

One of my favorite political sites is the FiveThirtyEight blog which analyzes polling data.  It was a project started by Nate Silver in 2008 and become one of the best tools to understand what all the different polls are telling us.  The website is the perfect intersection of my political junkie and numbers nerd personalities. They have been forecasting the Presidential race and a few weeks back added the U.S. Senate races. This week they greatly expanded by adding their forecasts for the U.S. House.

Predictably, the closest race in Arkansas is in the Second District race between Republican incumbent Congressman French Hill and Democratic challenger State Sen. Joyce Elliott. In the other congressional races, the Republicans all have a greater than 99 percent chance of winning.

Their methodology simulates multiple election scenarios to see who wins most often based on their data.  In their analysis, Hill wins 77 percent of the time while Elliott wins 23 percent of the time. Note - this does not mean Hill will win the election by 50+ points rather it means he is about three times likely to have more votes than Elliott.  Their trend lines do show the race continuing to tighten with an possible outcome of Hill 52.8% to Elliott 47.4%.

This feels about right.  Hill seems likely to win but the race is close.  According to Roby Brock over at Talk Business, we will get another look at this race before election day.

"We will have new statewide and CD2 polling the weekend of Oct. 17-18. We’ll be in the field next week," tweeted Brock today.

A Talk Business poll last month showed a close race with Hill in slight lead 47.5% over Elliott with 46%.  A couple Democratic funded poll since then have also showed the race essentially tied.  Republicans have not yet released any internal polls but admitted the race is close.

Monday, October 5, 2020

Three State Senate Races Will Test Democrats Strength in South Arkansas

Going into this year's election, the Arkansas State Senate has 26 Republicans and 9 Democrats.  In all likelihood, this will change little.  Only 8 of the 35 seats have a general election with a Republican versus Democrat on the ballot.  Republican incumbents face challenges in four districts, Democrats in two, and there is one open district in Little Rock where Democratic State Sen. Will Bond did not run for re-election.

Three of these Senate races are in spread across south Arkansas districts that were once considered Democratic strongholds but voters have shifted increasingly to the Republican ticket.  It was only eight years ago that conservative Democratic Congressman Mike Ross was consider unbeatable in the vast south Arkansas Fourth Congressional District.  Now Republican Congressman Bruce Westerman is running with little threat from Democratic challenger William Hanson.

Perhaps the biggest test for Democrats is State Sen. Bruce Maloch's re-election in district 12.  Cut from a mold similar as Ross, Maloch has distinguished himself as a conservative Democrat and he has the record to back in up.  He is the only Democrat endorsed by Arkansas Right to Life.  He is well known, well liked, and well funded.  His campaign finance report shows that he has raised $147,092 most of which has been spent on Little Rock communication firm The Friday Group.

The test for Maloch is simply the make-up of the district which voted overwhelmingly for Trump in 2016.  State legislative analysis Chaz Nuttycombe with CNAlysis follows state legislative races across the country and gives Maloch about a 40% chance of holding the seat.

"Maloch is vulnerable because he’s in a district won by Trump by 20 points. Maloch has never even won his district either, as no Republican has ran against him. In the Trump era, blue dogs in Trump areas are on a rapid decline. They’ve always been disappearing every cycle and Maloch probably won’t be an exception. He’s winning the money race though so we only have him as a slight underdog, he’s got about a 40% shot to win I’d say," says Nuttycombe.

The Republican candidate by contrast is not well known nor well funded.  His campaign reports only raising $12,840 with his only expense to date his $7,500 filing fee.  He has started sending out mailers - which have been heavily criticized by some of Maloch's Republican State Senate colleagues - although this expense will not show up until the next financial filing.  And here is a mystery.  So far no one is claiming credit for these mailers.  I reached out to three of the leading Republican consultants in Arkansas and none of them say they are working on Beckham's campaign. (Most observers thought the mailers were from Ken Yang but he tells me he did not do them and is not working on Beckham campaign.)

Another south Arkansas Democrat playing defense is State Sen. Eddie Cheatham but unlike Maloch, Cheatman faces a well funded Republican opponent.  Ben Gilmore - who until recently worked at the Lieutenant Governor's office - has raised $137,059 for his race compared to $83,284 for Cheatham.  Gilemore's campaign is run by his well connected brother's political firm Gilmore Strategies who formerly worked for Gov. Hutchinson office.  Cheatman is used long time Democratic leaning Linda Napper for his campaign.

Nuttycombe predicts Cheatham's chances are even worse that Maloch's describing him as a "dead man walking."

"Cheatham is going to get Blanche’d," said Nuttycombe. "He barely won in 2012 and his district is about as Republican as Maloch’s - perhaps a little bit more Republican. He would have lost in 2016. He is not doing hot in the money race like Maloch is either. There’s no scenario where Cheatham survives; he is the most likely Democrat incumbent in any state legislative race in the country to lose this November."

On the Republican side, State Sen. Trent Garner is defending his seat against Democratic challenger Keidra Burrell.  Garner holds a huge money edge raising $163,502 compared to Burrell's $38,797.  Democrats barely held up to this district in 2012 with Bobby Pierce wining by only about 300 votes. Pierce then lost his re-election in 2016 to Garner by over 2,800 votes.  It would take a huge shift away from the Republican trends for Garner to lose this seat which seems unlikely.

Can Democrats still win in the south Arkansas?  These three races will tell us.

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

French Hill Embraces Asa


A smart move from Congressman French Hill's campaign this week as they rolled out a new ad featuring Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson front and center.  

"Before I was governor, I served in Congress and I know what it takes to serve in a broken Washington," says Asa in his trademark pronunciation.  "French Hill gets it. And that's why I rely of his leadership in Congress.  French has been in the trenches with me battling this virus from the start.  It was French that helped get us the critical funding we needed to save lives and jobs."

The backdrop here is the latest Talk Business poll which showed 70% of voters in the Second Congressional District approve of  the governor's job performance compared to only 26% who disapproved.  Compare that with President Trump which the same poll showed him trailing Joe Biden with 45% Trump to 49% Biden

I would look for more ads (hopefully) from Hill arm and arm with Asa in the coming weeks.  If Hill holds on and wins, Asa will be the reason not Trump.

Also noteworthy today was Asa distancing himself from President Trump someone following the (un)Presidential Debate.

"As I watched last night’s debate, I was reminded of the importance of civil discourse in our society and of the wise words of William Wilberforce. As an abolitionist and member of Parliament, he strove for respectful discussion, even on the most challenging issues," tweeted Asa.

Again, smart move.

Monday, September 28, 2020

Donald J. Trump State Park's French Hill Section - Another Tax Write-off

I noticed a funny little detail within the bombshell news yesterday from the New York Times on President Trump taxes...or lack there of.  The NYT obtained copies of the long sought after Trump tax returns and as many had guessed they showed Trump paid very, very little in federal income taxes in the last couple decades.  He only paid $750 in taxes in 2016 and 2017 and nothing in taxes for 10 of the last 15 years.  In 2010, he got a $72.9 million refund.

How exactly does someone pull off such a feat?  I would love to see the actual returns to give you full answer but I can you that there are a variety of tax deductions that can be used to reduce an individual's tax liability.  And a high net worth tax payer can get aggressive with these deduction.

A perfect example in the French Hill Section of New York's Donald J. Trump State Park. And yes, it really is called the "French Hill" Section.

According to an article from Time, Trump bought 436 acres of undeveloped land in upstate New York in 1998 for $2.75 million in hopes to turn the land into yet another of his golf courses.  But when this did not pan out, he decided to donate the land to the state of New York for a tax write off.  The charitable donation was listed by Trump 2016 campaign as being valued at $26.1 million.

It is unclear if $26.1 million was the amount Trump claimed as his charitable deduction.  Maybe we will get a better look if we can see the actual filings.

The "French Hill" section was abandoned in 2010 and is now little more than a sign, a parking lot, and overgrown trees and brush.  The name has nothing to do with our Republican Congressman French Hill (instead it separates it from the "Indian Hill" section) but it is too funny not to mention.  Hill is locked in a tight race and today there are reports that the DCCC is about to spend some money helping Elliott.