LITTLE ROCK – Nov. 4 marked midterm elections in various states across the United States, including Arkansas. Arkansans voted to uphold local control of alcohol sales and gradually raise the state’s minimum wage. Republican candidates swept nearly all offices up for election in the state.
Larry Page, executive director of the Arkansas Faith and Ethics Council (AFEC), was a harsh critic of the Arkansas Alcoholic Beverage Initiative, Issue 4, on the ballot. Page argued that the initiative would stifle the voice of individuals living in Arkansas’ 37 dry counties. By forfeiting the right of local municipalities and communities to decide to allow or prohibit the sale of alcohol, Page argued Arkansans would unnecessarily lose their voice on the issue.
Page sent an email to subscribers and to AFEC supporters following the results of the Nov. 4 election.
“The vote was not close. By an overwhelming margin, we beat Issue #4, rejected statewide alcohol sales, and retained the important principle of local control,” wrote Page. “It is so gratifying to see what a difference for righteousness we can make when we come together and take decisive action on an issue.”
The other major issue on the ballot in Arkansas dealt with gradually raising the state’s minimum wage. According to published reports, Issue 5 passed and will raise Arkansas’ minimum wage from $6.25 to $7.50 per hour on Jan. 1, 2015, to $8 per hour on Jan. 1, 2016, and finally to $8.50 per hour on Jan. 1, 2017.
According to published reports, the other three issues passed. These were: Issue 1, to require legislative review to all changes in state agencies’ administrative rules; Issue 2, to allow more time to gather signatures for statewide initiatives or referendum petitions, if as originally filed they contained 75 percent of the necessary signatures, and Issue 3, to regulate campaign contributions to candidates for state and local office, bar some gifts from lobbyists to state officials, set certain state officials’ salaries and set term limits for members of the state’s General Assembly.
Republicans gained all six congressional seats and all seven statewide offices, including the office of governor. Much like other Southern states, Arkansas has traditionally been dominated by the Democratic Party. This year’s election continued a trend over the past few election cycles, which saw Arkansans supporting Republicans over Democrats, in many cases by large margins.
Janine Parry, director of the annual Arkansas Poll conducted by the University of Arkansas, told the Arkansas News Bureau (ANB), “It solidifies a pattern that we’ve been seeing since 2010. … We saw more victories in more branches at more levels than the state has since Reconstruction, and we’ve seen it for multiple elections. That is a realignment by definition.”
According to the ANB, Parry said that while it is difficult to know conclusively what role Arkansas’ dissatisfaction with President Barack Obama played in these shifts, the large “gains” Republicans have made since Obama took office put the party in a desirable position looking to the future.