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Two hopefuls win GOP nod for Arkansas Legislature

Close District 16 primary requires March 13 runoff

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Voters in Tuesday's special election decided winners in two state legislative primaries, but a March runoff will be needed to decide the third.

Ricky Hill of Cabot defeated Jim Coy of Cabot in the Republican primary for state Senate District 29.

J. Donald Ragland of Marshall beat Timmy Reid of Marshall in the Republican primary for state House District 83.

Breanne Davis of Russellville and Robert J. "Bob" Bailey of Russellville will face each other again in a March 13 runoff because no candidate in the state Senate District Republican primary received a majority of the votes. Davis and Bailey were the leading two vote-getters in a three-way race that also included Luke Heffley of Russellville.

With all precincts reporting, unofficial vote totals for Senate District 16 were:

Davis 2,438

Bailey 2,323

Heffley 854

District 16 -- which includes Newton and Pope counties and parts of Boone, Carroll and Van Buren counties -- was left vacant after the cancer death of Sen. Greg Standridge, R-Russellville.

Russellville Democrat Teresa Gallegos will take on the winner of the March runoff for the seat in the special election on May 22.

Gov. Asa Hutchison contributed to Davis' and Heffley's campaigns through his political action committee; he didn't give to Bailey because Bailey, 59, is backing Jan Morgan, a Hot Springs Republican, in her campaign to unseat Hutchinson during the May Republican primary.

Davis, 35, supports Arkansas' version of Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act, which provides health insurance to some low-income Arkansans, as long as the state continues efforts to reduce the number of people on the program; Bailey opposes it.

With all precincts reporting, unofficial vote totals for Senate District 29 were:

Hill 1,403

1,079

Hill, a former Cabot School Board member, will face Jacksonville Democrat Steven McNeely, a lawyer, in the May 22 special election, which coincides with the regular primary election. The district includes portions of Faulkner, Lonoke, Pulaski and White counties.

The winner will serve the remainder of the four-year term Eddie Joe Williams, R-Cabot, won in 2016. Williams resigned in November to serve as President Donald Trump's representative to the Southern States Energy Board.

Hill, 50, is executive vice president of Bank of the Ozarks, where he has worked since 2011.

During his primary campaign, Hill focused on the expansion of workforce development and skills training in education and infrastructure improvements.

Phone messages left with Hill late Tuesday weren't returned, but he took to Facebook to thank voters.

"We did it!" he wrote on his campaign page. "With your help, prayers and votes, we have won the election. From the bottom of our hearts, thank you."

With all precincts reporting, unofficial vote totals for House District 83 were:

Ragland 1,279

Reid 1,091

Ragland, 71, will be the next District 83 state representative because no Democrats ran for the seat.

The seat opened after Rep. David Branscum, R-Marshall, left to take a position at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The district includes sections of Boone, Carroll, Newton, Pope and Searcy counties.

Ragland thanked voters during a phone interview late Tuesday, but he said he was disappointed he didn't win by a wider margin. Low turnout kept his vote totals down, Ragland said.

"I think I won because of experience and having dealt with every aspect of life there is," said Ragland, a military veteran and former sheriff.

C&H Hog Farms, which has been subject to years of controversy surrounding the number of pigs housed there along a tributary of the Buffalo River, was a central component of the District 83 primary. The Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality recently rejected the farm's application to renew its operating permit, which the farmers have appealed.

State lawmakers receive a salary of $40,188 a year in addition to per diem and mileage to attend legislative sessions and meetings.

Metro on 02/14/2018

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