Nation turns eyes on Lincoln v. Halter race

By Keith Boles - bio | email feedback

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - With the primaries just hours away, several state elections are being closely monitored across America.... Including here in Arkansas.

Much of the attention is focused on the race between incumbent Senator Blanche Lincoln and Lieutenant Governor Bill Halter.

I turned to Dr. Richard Wang, the Chairman of the Political Science Department at ASU to explain to me why it's getting so much attention.

In terms of primaries to watch, 3 stick out the most. Pennsylvania, Kentucky and Arkansas.

Dr. Wang, "Primarily because you have an incumbent who is being challenged from her own party. Kind of unusual." Wang says it is even more unusual to have that incumbent be in trouble with a candidate from the same party.

Wang says this challenge reflects how the Democratic party wants to shape itself.

"The incumbent represents that moderate, middle of the road and Halter represents the traditional constituency of the national party, not so much here, not so much in Arkansas but outside Arkansas and the rest of the country. The Halter type is going to be a little more liberal, traditional values,traditional Democratic party values or is it going to be a moderate middle of the road party."

Wang says Lincoln's vote on health care may have changed the way she is viewed nationally.

"She could have stopped that process with a different vote. She didn't. She tried to make some changes, she didn't she's on the spot."

Usually an incumbent can hold their seat. That's in normal times. But Dr. Wang says, these aren't normal times.

Wang, "When they run for re-election they win 9 out of 10 races. Historically, it's difficult to unseat an incumbent in Normal times."

Wang says Halters main supporters are from organized labor outside Arkansas. These want the Democratic party to step up on several fronts.

"Leadership in union issues, supporting organized labor. Environment, environmental issues. Liberal on the social issues. He's their candidate because I think they feel primarily he share's those values."

Later on that day I had a chance to visit with Bill Halter, I asked him about the national attention this campaign was drawing.

Halter, "This is really about for Arkansans deciding which direction they want to go. If they want to continue the same policies in Washington or if they want a change. Because honestly, if you send the same people back to Washington you're guaranteed to get the same results."

Halter says the amazing thing about the race is the momentum and support that's been generated in only 11 weeks.

Senator Lincoln said her campaign got started a lot sooner.

"Back in 2009, January of 2009 we got started with our campaign because we did know it was going to be a challenging time. You know, mid term of any administration is. . .the people have been through a sensational presidential year and  . .you're the first thing between them and their expectations that have been set for them."

As far has Doctor Wang's opinion on the race....

"The polls are saying and continue to say for some time that she has an edge over Halter. She's one, Halters two and Morrison single digit 3. But that single digit outcome could deny either candidates the majority they need."

Candidates must have 50.1 percent of the vote to move on to the primary to face the Republican candidate. With DC Morrison possibly acting as a spoiler, neither senate candidate may take the majority.

If that happens, 3 more weeks of campaigning for a June run-off.

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