Will AR Senate Be More Conservative?

Senators Bond, Cheatham, Maloch, and Cooper

Today, December 17th, the members of the Arkansas Senate are meeting to say goodbye to four Senators who will no longer be in the legislature come January. Three are Democrats and one is a Republican. It is good that the atmosphere is such that the Arkansas Senate can come together and celebrate long-time friendships across party lines.

This is also a time to reflect on the future. What will the changes in the Senate mean for the 2021 legislative session?

Three of the four departing Senators are being replaced by more conservative members.

Senator Will Bond (D) did not run for reelection but he was replaced by another Democrat. The other three Senators were defeated by conservative opponents and that is good news for Arkansas.  Senators Eddie Cheatham (D) and Bruce Maloch (D) both from south Arkansas were defeated by Republican challengers. Senator John Cooper (R), known as a big government establishment Republican, was defeated in the Republican Primary by a conservative Republican.

The flipping of three seats to more conservative representation is a big deal since the Senate is made up of only thirty-five members.

Republicans already dominated the Senate, so why is it a big deal?  The battle line in the Arkansas Senate is not between Republicans and Democrats. Instead, the battle is among Republicans.  The Republicans who are known as conservative small government Republicans have been in the minority.  The majority has been made up of a coalition of big government establishment Republicans with the support of Democrats.

With the defeat of two Democrat Senators, only seven Democrats remain to help big government Republicans pass liberal policies.

Also, the defeat of Republican John Cooper sent shock waves through the ranks of Republicans who have gone along with the liberal agenda of the establishment. It is hoped Republican senators in the middle may be less likely to follow along with the establishment which in the past was led by Senator Jim Hendren, nephew of the governor.

Don’t expect 2021 to bring a dramatic shift back to the conservatism promised in the elections of 2012 and 2014, but any change toward the promises of the Republican platform would be a welcome relief.

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