A race that has attracted little attention so far has the makings of a Democratic sleeper campaign. Certainly, former President Bill Clinton’s intense involvement in the congressional contest raises its level of importance and likely places it as the Democrats’ top southern conversion opportunity.
Arkansas’ 4th Congressional District covers most of the state’s southwestern quadrant, stretching from the Louisiana and Texas borders north to the area beyond the community of Huntsville, which lies northeast of Fayetteville.
The official nominees in this open seat, incumbent-less because freshman Rep. Tom Cotton (R) is running for the Senate, are state House Majority Leader Bruce Westerman (R) and former Federal Emergency Management Agency Director (under President Clinton) James Lee Witt (D).
Though the 4th District is currently in Republican hands, it previously belonged to Rep. Mike Ross (D) prior to his retirement and decision to run for governor. Now, as the Democratic nominee for the state’s top job, Ross has the ability to drive Democratic turnout in this region, since voters here will likely show him strong political loyalty. This should indirectly help Witt.
The Democrat has also raised much more money than Republican Westerman. According to the pre-primary filings, Witt had obtained over $665,000 as compared to Westerman’s $301,000. Considering that the Republican had to spend virtually all of his money to win the party nomination, while Witt was unopposed in his primary, gives the latter yet another advantage.
We can count on seeing President Clinton continuing to be a major presence in this campaign. In addition to cutting a two minute campaign video for Witt, he has made several public appearances with him around the district.
Though the Democrats are short of enough opportunities to make a serious run at the majority, the 4th District of Arkansas gives them a clear shot at gaining an important US House seat.