Arkansas 4th District
West from the Delta flatlands along the Mississippi River, where the water-soaked fields produce America’s largest rice crop, are small cities like Pine Bluff and El Dorado and the Ouachita Mountains. Southern Arkansas might well be called the northwest corner of the Deep South. It includes the state’s largest African-American population, a reminder that parts of southern Arkansas were once plantation country. There is also oil production, and the broiler-chicken industry looms large in these parts. The accent is clearly Arkansan: El Dorado, Nevada and Lafayette are all pronounced with long a’s and accents on the penultimate syllable, and Ouachita, with a bow to the original French rendition of the Indian name, is wa-SHEE-ta. The district includes the little railroad-crossing county-seat town of Hope, where former President Clinton and his first White House Chief of Staff Mack McLarty were classmates in Miss Mary’s kindergarten and where Gov. Mike Huckabee grew up a decade later. (The region is also home to Crater of Diamonds State Park, the source of the 4.24 carat Kahn canary diamond that Hillary Rodham Clinton wore to her husband’s second inauguration as president.) Hot Springs is the spa resort and gambling haven where Clinton’s stepfather sold Buicks, his mother bet on the horses, and he excelled in high school as he began his climb from southern Arkansas obscurity to world prominence.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
The 4th Congressional District occupies almost all of the southern half of Arkansas, from the Mississippi River to Texarkana. It is historically a Democratic district, and one that for most of the 20th century elected young men to the House and kept them there for years, to cut deals with the Democratic leadership and bring home the bacon. During the 1990s, it had a very different congressional politics: bipartisan, with rancorous debates on national issues, followed by narrow election victories.