Gov. Hutchinson pleased with election, but casino budget hole looms
LITTLE ROCK, AR. (Talk Business & Politics) - Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Wednesday (Nov. 7) “a smile came to my face” when asked about the previous day’s elections. However, he is not as happy that the passage of an amendment legalizing four Arkansas casinos will create more than a $40 million hole in next year’s budget.
Hutchinson spoke in a press conference at the Capitol the day after defeating Democrat Jared Henderson, 65-32%. Libertarian Mark West won 2.91% of the vote.
Hutchinson noted that he had carried all but seven counties and singled out Mississippi County, where he said he won more than 60% of the vote. He said more votes were cast for him than any other gubernatorial candidate in the last 30 years.
Four incumbents lost in House races, including Republican Reps. Charlie Collins, R-Ark., who was defeated by Denise Garner, and Jeff Williams, R-Springdale, who lost to Megan Godfrey by 30 votes.
Hutchinson said Collins had been a strong ally regarding tax policy and “was a person of strong convictions that practiced civility.” Williams’ loss was a surprise, Hutchinson said.
Two Democratic House members, Reps. Scott Baltz, D-Pocahontas, and Michael John Gray, D-Augusta, also were defeated. Hutchinson noted that he had endorsed their opponents and had traveled to Baltz’s district to campaign for Marsh Davis. He said that “perhaps that made some difference.”
Gray, who lost to Craig Christiansen, is chairman of the Democratic Party of Arkansas. Hutchinson called Gray “always a joy for me to work with.”
“That goes to show how difficult that position can be in mixing that with your own legislative race,” the governor said.
Hutchinson was asked about the passage of Issue 4 legalizing casinos at Oaklawn Racing & Gaming in Hot Springs, Southland Park Gaming & Racing in West Memphis, and in Pope and Jefferson counties. Hutchinson said he had voted against the amendment. It passed with 54% of the vote.
“My first budget meeting today showed a $40-plus million gap because that amendment passed,” he said. “That reduced the tax rate [for Oaklawn and Southland], and so we have to adjust for that down the road.”
For more on the Governor's press conference, click here from KATV content partner Talk Business & Politics.