Senator Lincoln (D-AR) has been tirelessly campaigning across Arkansas in an effort to gain ground against Congressman Boozman. She often touts her position as Chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, and the endorsement of the Arkansas Education Association. Moreover, Lincoln emphasizes her commitment to crafting, and voting for, bipartisan legislation.
It seems, however, that Sen. Lincoln’s desire to walk a bipartisan tightrope has angered both conservative and progressive Democrats in Arkansas. Lincoln’s position on, and vote for, health care reform illustrates the point. Some conservative Democrats do not approve of the legislation at all, while progressives were disillusioned when Lincoln refused to support a public option.
The 2010 primary election between Sen. Lincoln and challenger Lt. Governor Bill Halter highlights the divide between Arkansas’s conservative and progressive democrats.
The Democratic primary resulted in a runoff election. Lincoln received 146,579 votes, or 44.5 percent, while the more progressive candidate, Halter, received 140,081 votes, or 42.5 percent. The 50 percent needed in order to win was not achieved because a third candidate, D.C. Morrison, garnered 42,695 votes, or 13 percent.
Ultimately, Sen. Lincoln defeated Lt. Gov. Halter in the runoff election by a margin of four percent, 52 percent to 48 percent respectively.
The primary numbers are especially interesting when considering Sen. Lincoln’s chances of defeating Rep. Boozman in the general election.
Boozman was one of eight candidates in Arkansas’s Republican primary. He easily defeated the seven challengers by garnering 74,562 votes, or 52.7 percent. In other words, the votes cast for Rep. Boozman were more than the total votes secured by his seven opponents combined.
What is notable, and can be considered a glimmer of hope for Sen. Lincoln, is that the total votes cast for all eight Republicans is about 4,300 fewer than Lincoln received in the Democratic primary. If that trends holds for the general election, even considering the likelihood of higher voter turnout, it is possible that Lincoln could eke out a victory.
The Lincoln camp has even put a positive spin on the results of the Ipsos/Reuters poll that show Boozman with a 14-point lead. A September 23 press release issued by the Lincoln campaign stated in part, “A recent poll shows Blanche Lincoln narrowing the gap on five-term Congressman John Boozman.”
It’s a Four-candidate Race
The major candidates, Lincoln and Boozman, were included in the Ipsos/Reuters poll but two other senate hopefuls were not. The Green Party candidate, John Gray, may appeal to progressive Democrats who voted for Halter in the primary and runoff elections. Gray’s stance on many issues is music to the ears of progressives. For example, Gray supports medicare for all, producing everything America needs in America, and enforcing anti-trust laws.
It may be hard to imagine someone farther to the far-right than Rep. Boozman, yet Trevor Drown is presenting himself as that option to voters. Drown supports states’ rights, repealing the health care law, state regulation of abortion, and regaining national sovereignty by withdrawing from the United Nations.
While Gray is likely to draw votes away from Lincoln, Drown may similarly draw votes away from Rep. Boozman because he points out that Boozman is an incumbent. In this anti-incumbent environment, it is unlikely that Boozman wants Arkansans to be reminded of that fact.
On October 13, Arkansans will have an opportunity to hear from the four candidates during a debate hosted by Arkansas Educational Television Network. This will be Sen. Lincoln’s opportunity to distinguish herself from her three opponents. If successful, Lincoln may retain the title of Senator Blanche Lincoln.