An anti-tax mood ruled the day at many polling places in Northwest Arkansas on Tuesday.
In Washington County, a proposal to raise the sales tax a quarter-cent failed with 64 percent of voters opposing the tax. The increase would have helped fund expansion plans for Ozark Regional Transit. The Washington County Tea Party and other groups were aggressive in working to defeat the tax proposal.
An anti-tax message helped Bart Hester and Jon Woods win their state Senate Republican primaries.
In the Hester race, Americans for Prosperity, a national organization with an anti-tax agenda, financed television advertising and campaign mail scorching the other GOP candidate in Senate District 1, Tim Summers, for his previous tax votes.
Americans for Prosperity is led in Arkansas by Teresa Oelke of Rogers. Her father is the founder of Crossland Construction, a company heavily involved in financing Hester’s campaign.
During the race, Hester signed a no-tax pledge, but Summers refused to sign one. Summers said businesses in the Bentonville area don’t want legislators to rule out the possibility of a tax increase if funding is needed for state services. A sizable portion of Summers’ campaign financing came from the local business community, including Walmart or people associated with the Bentonville-based retail giant.
Woods also made taxation an issue. At a debate early this year, Woods produced a thick binder detailing $559 million in taxes he said his opponent, Bill Pritchard, voted to approve. Later the Woods campaign posted billboards in Senate District 7 and aired television ads, continuing to pound Pritchard for his tax votes.
Keith Emis, the Little Rock-based campaign consultant who ran Hester and Woods’ campaigns, said his candidates were running against fellow Republicans with a tax-voting record they couldn’t disavow. Meanwhile, his two candidates were consistent in telling voters they wouldn’t raise taxes, Emis said.
“When you tell voters that you’re not going to do that and you’re running against somebody who has, that has an impact,” Emis said.