Army veteran Tom Cotton won the Republican primary outright in Arkansas's 4th Congressional District on Tuesday night, avoiding a runoff against his top opponent, while Democrats in the 4th and 1st Districts will return to the polls in June after no candidate cleared 50 percent in either House primary.
Cotton defeated Beth Anne Rankin 57 percent to 37 percent in the 4th District GOP primary, with a third candidate picking up the rest. Rankin, the GOP's 2010 nominee, started out with a built-in edge over her principal opponent thanks to her efforts last cycle against retiring Democratic Rep. Mike Ross. But Cotton was endorsed by the Club for Growth and, backed by the group's donor network, eventually raised over $1 million and helped introduce himself to the district with a succession of TV ads touting his moving biography. (Cotton left his law practice to volunteer for the Army during the Iraq War.)
Meanwhile, state Sen. Gene Jeffress and attorney Byrum Hurst advanced to a primary runoff on June 12, in just three weeks. Hurst entered the primary at the last moment but still finished with 36 percent, just behind Jeffress's 40 percent. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has tabbed Hurst as one of its candidates in "emerging races," but he has had trouble with stories about late tax payments ever since he entered the fray. Still, he has outraised Jeffress, who has been a lethargic candidate.
Democrats will also compete in a runoff in the 1st District, where another candidate favored by national Democrats just managed to squeak into the second round. Scott Ellington was the leading Democrat in the primary, with over 49 percent of the primary vote -- less than 300 votes shy of claiming the nomination outright. But state Rep. Clark Hall, another DCCC "emerging races" candidate, advanced to the runoff with 39 percent of the vote thanks to a strong showing in his home Phillips County, and Hall will get a chance to erase his deficit in the June 12 runoff. Clark had outraised Ellington more than 5-to-1 before the primary.
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