Bumpers' Decision Encourages GOP In Arkansas
A poll suggests Connecticut Gov. Rowland could be in trouble
By Stuart Rothenberg
Arkansas Senate Democrats in the Razorback State were disappointed recently when four-term Sen. (and former governor) Dale Bumpers (D) announced he wouldn't seek re-election next year. His decision created question marks in both parties and opened another southern Senate seat, creating a new burst of optimism among Republicans, who already expect to make net Senate gains during the 1998 elections.
The names of a handful of Democrats immediately started to circulate through state political circles after Bumpers's decision was announced. Topping the list appears to be former congresswoman Blanche Lambert Lincoln, who represented the state's 1st Congressional District for a couple of terms before retiring to spend more time with her young children. Now, after just two years out of public office, Lincoln is making the political rounds and letting it be known that she is interested in returning to elective politics.
Known as a moderate to conservative Democrat, she had good ties with the business community while in Congress. While she voted for the 1993 Clinton budget, she also supported the more conservative Penny-Kasich budget plan in 1993, and she voted for a constitutional amendment to balance the federal budget. A supporter of NAFTA and GATT, she voted to ban assault weapons but voted against lifting the ban on gays in the military.
Lambert's major opposition could well come from Nate Colter. Colter ran one of Bumpers' Senate campaigns, and is close to President Bill Clinton. In 1993, Colter ran for lieutenant governor, losing to now-governor Mike Huckabee (R). In the process, however, the Democrat raised about $600,000, suggesting he has fund-raising muscle in the state. He is regarded as a moderate to liberal Democrat, giving him some advantage over Lambert in the primary.
While Lambert represented the northeastern quarter of the state, Colter originally comes from Southwestern Arkansas but currently lives in the Little Rock area.
Former state legislator Lu Hardin, who was recently appointed director of the Department of Higher Education in Huckabee's administration, has been mentioned for the Democratic race. But Hardin is also mentioned as a potential party-switcher and GOP nominee, adding to the existing confusion. Insiders insist that Hardin is too conservative to win the Democratic nomination.
A handful of other Democrats are also mentioned, including a couple of state legislators and an unsuccessful '96 Senate hopeful. But if Lambert and Colter enter the fray, the battle is likely to narrow to the two of them.
On the GOP side, state Sen. Fay Boozman, III is the apparent front runner, primarily because of his early support from Sen. Tim Hutchinson (R). Boozman and the senator are friends, and both come from the state's Republican-rich area of northwestern Arkansas, which has sent Republicans to Congress for years. The mountainous area was represented in Congress by Hutchinson until he was elected to the Senate last year, and the current congressman is Asa Hutchinson (R), Tim's brother.
At least two other state legislators are also interested: state Rep. Ted Mullinex and state Rep. Joe Hudson. Mullinex is from Hot Spring, just southwest of Little Rock, while Hudson is from Mountain Home, in the north central part of the state, not far from the Missouri border.
Also mentioned as a possible candidate is Winthrop Paul Rockefeller, the lieutenant governor and son of the state's former GOP governor. But in spite of his name and personal wealth, Rockefeller isn't regarded as a political powerhouse, and he hasn't been very aggressive about indicating his interest in the Senate race.
Insiders warn that other GOPers could enter the race. But if the nominee comes out of the current crop of candidates, Boozman has the edge.
The general election looks like a toss-up, but it is far too early to place much faith in general election handicapping.
Connecticut Governor A new Hartford Courant/Institute for Social Inquiry CONNECTICUT POLL has insiders buzzing: It shows Gov. John Rowland (R) trailing Cong. Barbara Kennelly (D) 40-36 percent in a race for governor. But while Democrats want the 1st District congresswoman to take on Rowland, Kennelly may prefer the safer route and run for re-election, hoping that the Democrats may re-take the House of Representatives after next year's elections.
Rowland is widely regarded by insiders and reporters as popular in the state, but the latest poll shows that only 37 percent said that they wanted to see the governor re-elected, while 44 percent said it was time for somebody else. Even 18 percent of Republicans said it was time for someone else. Of those polled, 40 percent rated the governor's job performance as good or excellent, while 55 percent called it fair or poor. Those ratings suggest serious problems for the Republican.
When matched against prospective opponents other than Kennelly, however, Rowland looks healthier. He leads former state comptroller Bill Curry 43-25 percent, and has a 40-22 percent advantage over House speaker Thomas Ritter. His leads over three mayors are even larger. Rowland beat Curry in 1994, and the two have been heading for a re-match. Ritter's likely entry into the race shakes up things on the Democratic side.
Pennsylvania's 15th C.D. Looks Competitive (12/09/97)
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