The road to the general election is crowded. And it’s certain to be full of twists, turns and perhaps a few unforeseen bumps, too.
That’s because last year, Arkansas completed its historic redistricting process. Each decade, following the U.S. census, the board of apportionment redraws the legislative maps to accommodate our state’s population changes.
As anticipated, we saw a significant shakeup of House and Senate seats, particularly in rural areas and regions like Northwest Arkansas experiencing an influx of new residents.
With the governor’s race on tap, the 2022 election was certain to draw attention. But will redistricting make it an even more unique cycle? Here are four trends to watch on the path to November 8.
The sheer number of candidates: Redistricting opened the candidate floodgates. This year, Arkansas reported a record number of filings. Every district is fair game with all 135 seats in the Arkansas General Assembly up for grabs. Even well-known incumbents in the House and Senate drew opponents.
Deepening divides: A recent Pew report noted the polarization of American politics, stating Democrats and Republicans “are farther apart ideologically today than at any time in the past 50 years.” This schism is playing out in Arkansas — not only across the aisle but within parties. We’re now seeing a rift within the state’s controlling party, driven mostly by national social issues.
Potentially shifting footholds: For decades, we were considered a Democrat state except for the rural Republican stronghold in the northwest corner of our state. But those communities in the hills have now become one of Arkansas’s fastest growing and most urban areas. As the region attracts new residents from the coasts and across the U.S., will its politics change? It’s highly doubtful to turn blue, but only time will tell.
Traditional campaigning: Over the past several cycles, campaigns have leveraged social media to get out the vote. Today, constantly changing algorithms make it more challenging to run political ads in a meaningful way. In Arkansas, canvassing still correlates to success, particularly for smaller races. And that won’t change anytime soon.
There’s a lot up in the air in the 2022 elections. But there’s one near certainty: the state House and Senate will remain solidly Republican. Here’s to a busy campaign season ahead.
Austin Grinder is an attorney and registered lobbyist for Mullenix & Associates, a government relations and consulting firm in Little Rock.