Sabato's Crystal Ball

Arkansas (01) House 2010

Crystal Ball Outlook: Leans R

Democratic candidate: Chad Causey, chief-of-staff to Congressman Marion Berry

Republican candidate: Rick Crawford, business owner

Recent updates from the Crystal Ball

Update: August 2, 2010

The open seat for Arkansas’ 1st district generated some interest. In the May 18th primary, Democrats Tim Wooldridge and Chad Causey were the top two vote-getters. Chad Causey won the runoff election a few weeks later and became the Democratic nominee. For the Republicans, agribusiness owner Rick Crawford won the primary and is the Republican nominee. Crawford has a slight fundraising advantage but both candidates need to ramp up their fundraising efforts. Given the demographics and different political leanings throughout the district, this race moves from a Toss-Up to Leans Republican.

Background:

Democratic Rep. Marion Berry has soaked up all that Mississippi’s flat muddy river basin has to offer in his 13 year Congressional dominance of Arkansas’ 1st District. His first election of 1996 was the only campaign in his career that was truly competitive. Ever since his first election, Berry has been flooded with winning percentages that usually land him with nearly three quarters of the vote. Twice in his career, 1998 and recently in 2008, Berry has not even been challenged.

Oddly, however, this small congressional district possesses two strikingly opposing pockets of political support. In the lower Delta areas, African American voters push the district to be the most Democratic in the state, while the high ground of the hill counties stands as a Republican stronghold. As a result, the district often votes erratically in national elections: in 2000, Democratic candidate Al Gore carried 50 percent of the vote; Republican George Bush captured 52 percent in 2004; and in 2008, Republican John McCain carried an overwhelming 59 percent of the vote.

The political oddities of the Arkansas 1st make it worth watching. However, unless and until a top-tier candidate emerges to give Berry a serious challenge, this seat is most likely going to remain in Democratic hands. Although, this can change if Berry decides not to run for reelection come this fall.