FAYETTEVILLE — Political newcomer Greg Leding cruised past former state legislator J.W. “Bill” Ramsey on Tuesday to earn the Democratic nomination for District 92 in the Arkansas House of Representatives.
With all precincts reporting, Leding received 1,156 votes (61 percent) and Ramsey got 730 votes (39 percent). Results are unofficial until certified by the Washington County Election Commission.
Leding is likely to take office in January because no Republican candidate filed to run in the district. Write-in candidates can file as late as August, but a win by a write-in candidate is extremely rare.
The Fayetteville district includes the University of Arkansas and most of Fayetteville. It is widely considered one of the region’s most liberal districts. Incumbent State Rep. Lindsley Smith, a three-term lawmaker who cannot run again because of the state’s term limits, endorsed Leding.
Leding said his campaign victory “reflects the hard work of our volunteers” and the political makeup of the district’s voters.
“It reflects the politics of District 92. It’s considered one of the most progressive districts of the state. These results suggest that,” Leding said.
During the campaign, both men claimed education and job creation as top priorities, but their differences showed on social, environmental and transportation issues. Leding cited the environment as his third priority, while Ramsey chose infrastructure. Ramsey said he’s a “moderate” and Leding called himself a “full-throated progressive” in public forums.
Leding said he’s got his work cut out for him in a General Assembly where most legislators are moderates.
“We may have won the battle, but the war is ongoing,” Leding said. “There’s a lot of work left to do.”
Ramsey served 18 years as a lawmaker representing western Washington County and northern Crawford County when he lived in Prairie Grove. He retired in 1990 before term limits took effect, so his prior years are not counted in the state’s term limits.
Leding, a contract Web designer for Fayetteville Public Schools, said during the campaign term limits were designed to bring new people into the Legislature.
Leding told voters he was better in touch with the district’s younger, liberal voters because he supports gay marriage and the Equal Rights Amendment and opposes coal-fired power plants.
Ramsey said he voted against the ERA when he was in office because the voters in his conservative rural district opposed it, but he would vote for it today.
Ramsey supports equal rights for homosexuals, but has “reservations” about gay marriage. He said he’d keep an open mind on the issue.
Leding supports funding efforts to reduce global warming, helping families living with autism, improving child nutrition, and allowing children of illegal immigrants to qualify for in-state college tuition, he said.