Hutchinson ally gets runoff win in Arkansas Senate primary

Gov. Asa Hutchinson-aligned Breanne Davis won in a special Republican primary runoff election Tuesday for a vacant state Senate seat.

Davis, 35, of Russellville, defeated fellow Russellville Republican Robert J. Bailey, 59, who had been endorsed by Hutchinson's primary opponent, Jan Morgan.

Davis, a senior account executive with North Carolina-based global analytics firm SAS Institute, moves on to a race against Russellville Democrat Teresa Gallegos on May 22 -- the same day as the regular primary election.

Davis and Gallegos will vie to fill the seat left vacant in November after the cancer death of Sen. Greg Standridge, R-Russellville. The district includes Newton and Pope counties and portions of Boone, Carroll and Van Buren counties.

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

Davis 4,264

Bailey 3,451

Tuesday's race pitted two wings of the Republican Party against each other, previewing a similar split that voters will face in the May gubernatorial primary between Hutchinson and Morgan, a Hot Springs gun range owner.

Davis and Bailey had first faced off in a three-way special primary on Feb. 13 that included Luke Heffley of Russellville. Davis and Bailey secured 2,440 votes and 2,327 votes, respectively, but neither secured a 50 percent majority.

The two Republicans held a variety of policy disagreements, ranging from Medicaid expansion to a 2017 law that allows people with enhanced training to carry concealed handguns at public universities and other public spaces.

Neither candidate returned phone messages left Tuesday evening after the race was decided.

Davis has said she'll work with Hutchinson to continue evaluating Arkansas Works -- the state's version of Medicaid expansion, which purchases health insurance for some low-income Arkansans.

Davis had been endorsed by Hutchinson, who had also hosted a fundraiser for Davis in Russellville last month.

Morgan endorsed Bailey, owner of Bailey Signature Firearms and a retired machinist, because of his conservative beliefs about spending and government size, according to a spokesman.

Heffley, who won 854 votes during the February special primary, endorsed Davis in the runoff.

Davis raised $148,324 during the campaign, according to the secretary of state's online campaign records. She spent $94,068.

Bailey raised $42,025 and spent $40,662, records show.

The sources of Davis' financial support included business and health care interests; Bailey's included opponents of the state's Medicaid expansion.

Davis said she supports a proposed constitutional amendment that would limit damages in certain lawsuits and limit attorneys' contingency fees. She said it would protect Arkansans from unreasonable legal fees but still allow them to recover damages in cases of negligence.

She supports the state's new enhanced handgun carry law and opposes restrictions on law-abiding gun owners.

Davis has also said she'll fight to ensure that Arkansas Tech University in Russellville is adequately funded.

The winner of the May race between Davis and Gallegos will serve in the Senate until January 2021, the remainder of the four-year term Standridge won in 2016.

Information for this article was contributed by Michael R. Wickline of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

Metro on 03/14/2018

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