America

In Arkansas, Blanche Lincoln Weathers Anti-Incumbent Storm, Wins Runoff

In a runoff election in Arkansas yesterday, Sen. Blanche Lincoln defeated the state's lieutenant governor, Bill Halter, by five percentage points.

Here's how The New York Times set up the race: "The White House supports Mrs. Lincoln, but Mr. Halter has the multimillion dollar backing of organized labor and other left-leaning groups."

Just after midnight, the two-term senator's campaign said Lincoln had "rolled to a dramatic primary runoff election victory on Tuesday night proving again she is not to be underestimated."

In an email message to her supporters and volunteers, thanking them for their help, Lincoln took one more dig at Halter, whose campaign benefited greatly from the support of labor unions, including the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).

"Tomorrow, when all those outsiders who flooded the state get back on their airplanes and buses to go back where they came from, our campaign will stay rooted right here in Arkansas," she said.

NPR's Ken Rudin, blogging about last night's results, said that "the left, and labor unions, went all out to defeat her, mostly over a centrist voting record that included abandonment of the public option in the health care bill and her opposition to the Employee Free Choice Act ("card check"), a cause dear to labor's heart."

When Lincoln barely finished ahead of Halter in the May 18 primary — by just two points — and when the SEIU, among other unions, announced they would increase their efforts to defeat her in the runoff — many people thought Lincoln was finished. Estimates of what labor spent to defeat her ranged between five and ten million dollars.

Before the runoff yesterday, John Brummett, a columnist for the Arkansas News Bureau in Little Rock, wrote that he hoped for a Halter victory, looking forward to the general election:

I previously wrote that Lincoln would be stronger in the general election because of Halter's burden of national liberal and labor associations. But I have reconsidered, determining I had underestimated three things: Lincoln's negatives, Halter's ability and the frustration with our governmental ineptitude that imperils all incumbency.

In November, Lincoln will face Rep. John Boozman (R-AR). Late last night, he issued a statement about Lincoln's victory:

I congratulate Senator Lincoln on securing her party's nomination. We have worked together over the years and she won a hard fought victory tonight. The fact remains, however, that the people of Arkansas have rejected the Obama-Pelosi-Reid agenda. We are going to run an aggressive campaign making the distinctions clear on Obamacare, card check, cap-and-trade, job killing stimulus legislation and the tax-and-spend initiatives that continue to plunge our nation further into enormous debt.

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