LITTLE ROCK — Little Rock lawyer Leslie Rutledge won the Republican nomination for attorney general in Tuesday’s runoff election, defeating primary opponent David Sterling.
Rutledge, a former Republican National Committee lawyer, will face Democratic state Rep. Nate Steel of Nashville and Libertarian Aaron Cash of Springdale in the November general election. Democratic Attorney General Dustin McDaniel is prevented by term limits from seeking a third term.
As of 10:35 p.m., with 63 of 75 counties reporting, the secretary of state’s office said Rutledge had received 59 percent of the vote and Sterling had received 41 percent.
In a victory speech to her supporters at the Clarion Hotel in Little Rock, Rutledge said she won despite being outspent by out-of-state groups in the primary and the runoff. The groups, American Future Fund and Judicial Crisis Network, paid for television ads criticizing Rutledge for not advocating a “Stand Your Ground” law.
“I think Arkansans sent a very strong message tonight, that Arkansas is not for sale,” Rutledge said. “And as attorney general, I want you all to know that I will always stand my ground to protect Arkansas.”
Rutledge was the top vote-getter in the May 20 primary but failed to win more than 50 percent of the vote and thus avoid a runoff. She received 47 percent of the vote; Sterling, a Little Rock lawyer in private practice, received 39 percent; and North Little Rock Lawyer Patricia Nation received 14 percent in that election.
Both Rutledge and Sterling pledged to fight what they called an overreaching federal government. Each claimed to have superior conservative credentials and more relevant experience.
Sterling advocated bringing back the electric chair for executions until Arkansas can find a way to resolve legal issues and drug shortages that have kept the state from being able to perform lethal injections for the past several years. Rutledge opposed using the electric chair and called the idea “irresponsible.”
Meanwhile Tuesday, in state Senate District 17, Mountain Home businessman Scott Flippo defeated Rep. John Burris, R-Harrison, in a runoff for the seat now held by Sen. Johnny Key, R-Mountain Home.
According to unofficial election results from the secretary of state’s office, Flippo received 52 percent of the vote and Burris received 48. No Democrat is seeking the office.
Burris’ defeat could be significant for the future of the private option, the state’s program that uses federal Medicaid money to subsidize private insurance for low-income Arkansans. Burris was one of the architects and main proponents of the program; Flippo opposes it.
In state House District 16, state Workforce Investment Director Ken Ferguson defeated real estate agent Win Trafford, both of Pine Bluff, in a runoff for the seat now held by Rep. James Word, D-Pine Bluff.
The secretary of state’s office reported that Ferguson received 55.5 percent of the vote and Trafford received 45.5 percent. No Republican is running for the office.