A Republican seeking to return to the Arkansas Senate and a Republican vying to win a seat in the Arkansas House of Representatives are touting favorable poll results.
In poll results released in late July, Sen. Bruce Holland, R-Greenwood, holds a more than 23-point lead over Rep. Tracy Pennartz, D-Fort Smith. Holland seeks a second term in the Senate.
The poll, conducted by Conway-based Diamond State Consulting, polled more than 400 likely voters in Senate District 9, which covers parts of southern Crawford County, east Fort Smith, and portions of Franklin, Scott and Sebastian Counties.
Results from the likely voters gave Holland 54.8% approval, with Pennartz’s approval at 31.4%, and 13.8% unsure.
“Neither candidate is particularly well known at this time because the district was newly created in the re-apportionment/redistricting process after the 2010 census,” noted the Diamond State analysis from Ted Thomas and Keith Emis. “Most of voters in the new district were not in the district which elected Sen. Holland in the 2010 cycle. Similarly, Rep. Pennartz has not previously appeared on the ballot in much of the new state senate district.”
Pennartz, who is term limited in the House of Representatives, dismissed the “internal” poll results by questioning the methodology. Diamond State anticipated the reaction.
“Democratic operatives will dismiss these results as an internal campaign poll. It should be noted that they similarly dismissed polling results produced by the same methodology in 2010, yet the generic ballot numbers early in the 2010 cycle were strongly predictive of the election results in the 2010 cycle,” Thomas and Emis noted in their report.
Holland said the poll results suggest to him that “a lot of old-school Arkansas Democrats who have a real hard time identifying themselves as liberals,” are voting Republican.
The Pennartz campaign issued the following response to the poll results.
“This poll also shows that while State Representative Tracy Pennartz is well-liked by a 2-to-1 margin by those who know her, most voters in this new Senate District 9 do not know her.
“As people get to know the force of nature that is State Representative Tracy Pennartz, they will understand why Governor Mike Beebe has enthusiastically endorsed her. Then, these numbers will change dramatically.
“We look forward to the results of the ultimate poll on Nov 6th.”
In Arkansas House District 82, Republican Bill Gossage is trying to unseat first-term Rep. Leslee Milam Post, D-Ozark. The district stretches north from Franklin County into portions of Madison and Newton counties.
The poll, also conducted by Diamond State, randomly surveyed 451 likely voters in the district. Results give Gossage 54.4% approval, compared to 29.3% for Post.
“Gossage benefits from the generic ballot lead of Republicans, more positive name identification, less negative name identification, a lead in the head-to-head match up among both women and men and also has a higher intensity among his supporters,” Emis said in the poll analysis.
Post said the poll reflects voter opinion about what is happening in Washington, D.C.
“Today's poll is another example of how my opponent is working to take the focus off the important issues of this election,” Post said in a statement. “I'm proud to have worked with Governor Beebe to create jobs, balance our budget, improve our public schools and cut taxes. This generic poll represents a mood from the problems happening in Washington, DC.”
Post expressed confidence that voters in the district will assess the candidates on their merits, and not party affiliation.
“I'm confident over the course of this campaign season, voters in district 82 will see the difference between Washington-style politics and electing the best candidate to go to Little Rock and work with Governor Beebe to continue the progress we've seen here in Arkansas,” Post said. “I'm confident voters will see and hear firsthand that we are getting good things done at the State Capitol, not playing partisan politics."