APRIL 25, 2005 - Posted at 7:52 a.m. CDT
WASHINGTON - Arkansas has become one of the few states in the South that still reflects, or again reflects, the tradition of the Democratic Party dominance in congressional delegations. Many Southern Democrats were long viewed as mavericks in the party, much more likely to buck party leadership in Congress than were Democrats from other regions. But now most of those lawmakers, many of them powerful because of their seniority, have either retired or joined the Republican Party.
But not all Southern Democrats are history. Congressman Mike Ross of Arkansas scoffs at the idea of switching parties. Ross says he'd rather be in the minority the rest of his life than sell his convictions down the river.
Arkansas provides Democrats a model for broadening their Southern base. In 2000, the state's six-member congressional delegation was split, three Republicans and three Democrats. But Ross and Senator Mark Pryor upset Republican incumbents, giving Arkansas Democrats their current 5-to-1 majority. Arkansas and West Virginia are now the only Southern states where congressional delegations aren't dominated by Republicans.