An Arkansas legislator national Democrats have said is their best chance to flip a Little Rock-area congressional seat won the party's nomination Tuesday night, while the state's Republican governor defeated a gun range owner who had challenged him from the right in the GOP primary.
The election is the first step in Democrats' hopes to end their shutout in predominantly GOP Arkansas. Republicans control all of the state's federal offices and its statewide partisan offices, as well as a majority in both chambers of the Legislature. The GOP has held the 2nd District seat since 2011.
Here are the top races at stake as voters head to the polls:
DEMOCRATIC HOUSE HOPES
State Rep. Clarke Tucker, who national Democrats touted as the party's best chance to reclaim the 2nd Congressional District, won the four-person primary for the district covering Little Rock and seven central Arkansas counties. The seat is currently held by Republican U.S. Rep. French Hill. Tucker has outpaced his rivals in the race in fundraising and has been running ads talking about his battle with cancer. He's running against two schoolteachers — Paul Spencer and Gwen Combs — and Jonathan Dunkley, the director of operations for the University of Arkansas' Clinton School of Public Service.
"I think people are tired of Congress having their attention be on the things other than the people they represent," Tucker told The Associated Press Tuesday night.
In northwestern Arkansas' 3rd Congressional District, incumbent Rep. Steve Womack defeated Fayetteville pastor Robb Ryerse in the GOP primary. Republican Rep. Bruce Westerman, who represents southern and western Arkansas' 4th District, defeated Randy Caldwell, a preacher.
HIGH COURT HIJINKS
A state Supreme Court justice and an attorney backed by a Republican group advanced to a runoff in a high court race marked by heavy outside spending. Justice Courtney Goodson and David Sterling, the chief counsel for the Department of Human Services, advanced to a runoff in the election for the nonpartisan seat. Appeals Court Judge Kenneth Hixson finished third in Tuesday's election.
Goodson and Sterling now head to a runoff in the November election. The Judicial Crisis Network, which targeted Goodson during her unsuccessful campaign to be chief justice two years ago, has spent more than $935,000 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.
"Today was a huge victory for honest people who are fed up with the lies dark money is spreading about me," Goodson told the AP.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson defeated Jan Morgan in the Republican primary after a race he touted $150 million in tax cuts he's signed into law, as well as his record on gun rights and anti-abortion measures. Morgan had challenged Hutchinson from the right in the primary. Morgan, a gun rights activist and cable news commentator had declared her Hot Springs gun range "Muslim-free" in 2014. In the Democratic primary, Jared Henderson, a former Teach for America executive, defeated Leticia Sanders, a hair braider from Maumelle.
"The voters of Arkansas have rejected the negative voices and said we prefer hope and optimism about our future," Hutchinson told the AP.