One political truth evident locally Tuesday night was that there are two distinct kinds of voters in Little Rock and Pulaski County.
There are those who vote early and those who vote on election day.
Their difference is more than their voting habit or practice. It’s their political disposition.
Early votes in Pulaski County were overwhelmingly Democratic and, in the extraordinary nail-biter of a Little Rock mayor’s race, different from those of election day for some reason not so clearly partisan.
It may have to do with race, with a disproportionate number of blacks voting early and a much larger percentage of whites waiting until election day.
Because this happened:
• When the early votes were dumped about 7:45 p.m. Tuesday by the Pulaski County Election Commission, they showed state Rep. Clarke Tucker, the Democrat, with a sterling lead of 42,000 to 24,000 over incumbent Republican French Hill in the 2nd District congressional race. That suggested he might, with the addition of the election-day returns, build an eventual lead big enough in Pulaski to remain competitive as Hill inevitably routed him—as he surely did—in the raging red regions of Saline, Faulkner and White counties.
But, as the election-day returns trickled in, Tucker struggled to add to his margin. It was at this late-evening writing up only by 9,000, to 27,000, even as the election-day turnout was close to equal to the early-vote turnout. That was hardly enough to dent a Hill victory margin that appeared to be in the not-at-all-close 52-46 range.
• In the extraordinary first-of-its-kind race for a higher-profile mayor of Little Rock, Frank Scott, the African American candidate, had a big plurality of nearly 38 percent—13,000 votes to 9,000 or so for Baker Kurrus and 8,000 or so for Warwick Sabin—in the early voting. But in the election-day returns, Kurrus and Sabin ran close to each other and closer to him. He wound up with about 25,000 votes while Kurrus had only a few hundred more than Sabin, with both in the 20,000 range.
In the final analysis, the 2nd District re-proved itself red and embedded that way. The big blue island of Pulaski is not as blue as the suburban counties are red.
And the mayoral race’s likely runoff between Scott and Kurrus, with a few precincts still out at this writing, would pit eastern and southern Little Rock, which provide Scott’s base, against west Little Rock, which is Kurrus’ base. The deciders would turn out to be the midtown liberals who embraced Sabin, and whose leanings probably would be to Kurrus owing to his public-school service and Scott’s social conservatism. But it could turn out more complicated than that—for some voters, anyway.
Nationally, the story Tuesday was reminiscent of an old country song in which the woman tells the man he wasn’t the wave, but just the water.
There was no Democratic wave. There was no wide rejection of dangerous Trumpism. There was just enough of a rebuff of the preposterous and Russian-endorsed second-place president that Democrats narrowly took the House of Representatives.
The outcome is highly consequential, putting a check on Trump. But it is not substantial enough to chasten this presidential character—not that he could be chastened anyway.
John Brummett, whose column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, is a member of the Arkansas Writers’ Hall of Fame. Email him at email@example.com. Read his @johnbrummett Twitter feed.