Republican millionaire French Hill won the U.S. House of Representative seat for Arkansas’s 2nd District on Tuesday, narrowly beating out Democratic challenger Patrick Henry Hays. The incumbent, Republican Rep. Tim Griffin, was not seeking re-election this year.
Hill won about 50 percent of the votes, with Hays taking 46 percent, according to Associated Press election results.
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Hays was a longtime mayor of North Little Rock and served a term in the Arkansas House in the late 1980s. Some of his campaign pledges sounded more Republican than Democrat, with promises to cut federal spending, reduce the government’s growing debt and save taxpayer dollars. Still, the candidate earned the backing of traditionally blue groups, including major teachers’ organizations and labor groups, and strongly endorsed a state referendum to raise the minimum wage in Arkansas.
The Democrat raised nearly $2 million in the campaign, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Hills raised just over $1.3 million.
Hays supporters sought to paint Hill as a greedy banker type. The Republican reportedly pocketed $5 million this summer when he sold his community bank, costing some employees their jobs. Hill has also declined to disclose his stance on the minimum wage hike, saying that he still needed to study the proposal.
Yet Hill’s campaign played up those pro-business credentials, in turn criticizing Hay as a “career politician.” Hill served as senior policy adviser to former President George H.W. Bush and was a senior adviser to former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who ran as a Republican challenger in the 2008 presidential elections.
French Hill is “a conservative business leader -- not a politician -- fighting Washington’s attacks on Arkansas,” according to his campaign website.