Pitsch victorious in Senate District 8

Slape wins GOP runoff for House seat

Posted: June 20, 2018 at 2:52 a.m.

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State Rep. Mat Pitsch of Fort Smith narrowly defeated former state Rep. Frank Glidewell of Fort Smith in Tuesday's Republican runoff election for the Senate District 8 seat.

In Tuesday's other legislative runoff election, Newton County Sheriff Keith Slape of Compton edged state Rep. Donald Ragland of Marshall for the Republican nomination for the House District 83 seat.

According to the secretary of state's office, unofficial returns in the Republican runoff in Senate District 8 were:

Pitsch 2,069

Glidewell 1,985

Pitsch said Tuesday in a telephone interview that "that was awful close."

[RUNOFF RESULTS: Click here for full list]

He credited his "amazing" volunteers who knocked on doors of voters and stood on street corners with signs to help his campaign, and an array of endorsements, including Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson, U.S. Rep. Steve Womack, the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce and Sebastian County Sheriff Bill Hollenbeck, for his victory.

"Endorsements were very key to a lot of voters," Pitsch said.

Glidewell said he couldn't overcome what he described as Pitsch's 18 percent advantage among early voters in the runoff election.

"I climbed all night," he said. "I just didn't get enough voters out."

Glidewell said he doesn't believe that Gov. Hutchinson's support for Pitsch made much of a difference in the Senate runoff.

As the winner of primary runoff election, Pitsch advances to the Nov. 6 general election to take on Libertarian candidate William Hyman of Fort Smith. The winner will serve a four-year term, starting in mid-January of 2019.

District 8 covers part of Sebastian County. It includes part of Fort Smith, and Greenwood, Hackett and Bonanza.

Pitsch and Glidewell competed in the runoff election because they each finished ahead of former Sen. Denny Altes, R-Fort Smith, in the May 22 primary election but neither of them won a majority of votes in the primary. In the primary election, Glidewell tallied 4,193 votes compared with Pitsch's 3,641 and Altes' 2,693. In runoff, Altes threw his support behind Glidewell.

Pitsch and Glidewell were split over the state's version of Medicaid expansion, called Arkansas Works under Hutchinson, and a proposed constitutional amendment that would limit certain damages in civil lawsuits and allow the Legislature to rewrite court rules now written by the state Supreme Court.

They also disagreed over a 2017 state law that exempted military retirement benefits from state income taxes but also raised other taxes.

Pitsch, 54, is executive director of the Western Arkansas Intermodal Association. He has served in the House since 2015 and was the House Republican leader during the previous two years. He lost a 2012 state House race to Altes, then beat Altes' son, Bobby Altes, for the House seat in 2014.

Glidewell, 73, is a retired electrical contractor who served in the state House of Representatives from 2005-2011, but lost a 2010 primary runoff to Sen. Jake Files, R-Fort Smith. He also served as Sebastian County judge from 1997-1998 and several terms as a Sebastian County justice of the peace.

Through June 9, Pitsch reported raising $113,725 in contributions and spending $54,491.45. In contrast, Glidewell reported loaning his campaign $52,500, raising $17,600 in contributions and spending $51,580.66 through June 9.

In the special primary election on May 22, Glidewell defeated Altes to advance to the Aug. 14 special election to face Hyman. The winner of the special election will represent Senate District 8 through mid-January of 2019. As a state representative, Pitsch was barred from running in the special election for the state Senate seat under the Arkansas Constitution.

The Senate District 8 seat has been vacant since former Sen. Jake Files resigned from the Senate seat in February. He submitted his resignation after pleading guilty in late January to felony charges of wire fraud, money laundering and bank fraud.

According to the secretary of state's office, unofficial returns in the Republican runoff in House District 83, were

Slape 1,382

Ragland 1,338

Slape said the runoff election for Newton County sheriff "helped me."

"I guess my people worked harder," he said.

While Ragland said the runoff election for Newton County sheriff aided Slape's campaign, he said that "my people just didn't get out and vote for me.

"People didn't seem too interested [in the runoff election]," Ragland said.

Slape advances to the Nov. 6 general election, where he will be unopposed for a two-year term representing House District 83, starting in mid-January. District 83 includes Newton and parts of Boone, Carroll, Pope and Searcy counties.

Ragland and Slape of Compton advanced to Tuesday's runoff election because neither won a majority of votes in the May 22 primary election, though they both won more votes than Marshall RepublicanTimmy Reid. Ragland tallied 2,214 votes compared to Slape's 1,864 and Reid's 1,423.

Then, Reid endorsed Slape over Ragland, who is the older brother of House Chief of Staff Roy Ragland. Roy Ragland, served in the House from 2005-2011 as a Republican from Marshall.

Donald Ragland was sworn in earlier this month to fill the remainder of David Branscum's two-year term in the House that expires in mid-January, after he won in a special primary election over Reid in February and ran unopposed in the special election on May 22.

Through June 9, Ragland reported raising $25,755.33 in contributions, loaning his campaign $3,740 and spending $17,837.91. According to his latest campaign finance report on the secretary of state's website, Slape reported raising $3,972.40 in contributions, loaning his campaign $200 and spending $3,550 through May 12.

Both Ragland and Slape have indicated that they support the Arkansas Works' Medicaid expansion and favor allowing a controversial hog farm operating near the Buffalo National River to remain where it is.

Slape said he would work to improve the state's access to mental health services, while Ragland said he'll focus on improving roads.

The House District 83 seat became vacant due to the resignation Branscum, R-Marshall, in November to become the U.S. Department of Agriculture's rural development director in Arkansas.

Metro on 06/20/2018