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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — A Democratic state senator hoped to flip a House seat in solidly red Arkansas on Tuesday and become the first Black member of Congress from the state.
Sen. Joyce Elliott was challenging incumbent U.S. Rep. French Hill for a central Arkansas congressional district that includes Little Rock and seven counties.
Elliott lost the race for the same seat a decade ago by 20 percentage points, but this year was running an unexpectedly tight race. Hill has held the seat since 2015.
“It wouldn’t surprise me if it comes down to single digits and I want to be sure we don’t have any regrets,” Elliott said as she campaigned on Monday.
This year marked at least the third time over the past decade that Democrats called the district winnable, in part because of urban Little Rock’s diversity and youth, despite a further lurch to the right in mostly rural Arkansas. Hill said he was encouraged by the early voting numbers in Republican-leaning parts of the district.
“In my view it feels very much like the 2014 and the 2018 races that I’ve experienced in the past,” he said Monday.
Two years ago, the party’s nominee for the seat focused on his battle against cancer as he criticized Hill’s votes against the Affordable Care Act.
Tonight: Arkansas Business’ Lance Turner will join THV 11 News for election coverage throughout the night. Watch live on YouTube beginning at 7:30 p.m.
Elliott has emphasized her experience as a teacher, and said her election would extend the state’s civil rights legacy. Unlike past nominees, she didn’t distance herself from national Democratic figures, instead touting endorsements from Joe Biden and former President Barack Obama, and regularly criticized Hill for supporting President Donald Trump’s tax cuts.
Hill tried to align himself closely with Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who is generally popular in Arkansas. He’s also relied on party figures including Louisiana Rep. Steve Scalise, Sen. Tom Cotton and former White House press secretary Sarah Sanders, who have headlined events for him in the final days of the campaign.
Elliott has touted the support of former Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe, who appeared in an online ad for her.
Hill criticized Elliott for supporting a cellphone fee increase to pay for 911 improvements, a measure that won near-unanimous support in the Republican Legislature and that Hutchinson signed into law.
Democrats complained about a Facebook ad and mailer from Hill that portrayed Elliott as a “radical liberal,” featuring a photo of Elliott with a fist in the air. The ads invoked violence at some demonstrations protesting police brutality this year, but the photo was of Elliott at a rally last year for striking teachers.
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