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Arkansas - 1st District

Incumbent -- Marion Berry (D) ; Will retire at end of current term (announced Jan. 25, 2010)

Tossup
Race Ratings Key
 

Updated Oct. 14, 2010

Once viewed as a long shot for Arkansas Republicans, the 1st district has become the state's key battleground. That's because the GOP is heavily favored in all the other targeted Congressional contests.

Republicans nominated Rick Crawford, an Army veteran, farm broadcaster and businessman. He is untested as a candidate, and Democrats dismissed him early on. But the National Republican Congressional Committee has touted him and the polls continue to show him running strong against former Congressional aide Chad Causey.

Causey, who served as Berry's chief of staff, had an edge in the Democratic primary in part because of the backing he received from the Congressman and from President Bill Clinton. Causey is well-financed and continues to earn fundraising support from Clinton.

But in an anti-incumbent year, Causey's previous work for Berry has helped Republicans frame his campaign as that of another "D.C. insider" wanting to join the club on Capitol Hill.

Democrats have hit Crawford with the commonly used attack that he wants to cut Social Security. But they have also found campaign fodder in Crawford's past, including a bankruptcy he has struggled to explain.

Both national parties have said they intend to spend money in the 1st district, and for good reason. Republicans have successfully expanded the playing field enough to possibly flip control of the House this cycle. But to do it, they'll have to win in battleground areas like northeast Arkansas.

 

District Information

District Profile from Politics in America

Settled in the state's northeastern corner, the 1st stretches from the Mississippi Delta through fertile plains and into the hilly north near the Ozark Mountains. The district, the state's poorest, borders Missouri to the north and Tennessee and Mississippi to the east.

Large- and small-scale farming operations rise out of the 1st's alluvial cotton delta and fertile rice lands. Jonesboro, the most populous city here, is the hub for northeast Arkansas' agricultural production. Riceland Foods, one of the world's leading rice millers, is based in Stuttgart, and cattle and poultry farms prosper in the north. A volatile market may endanger steel production plants near Blytheville.

Poverty is most notably present in the largely white, older populations in the northwest and within the former sharecropping communities in the Democratic Delta. These communities struggle, with many residents undereducated and unemployed.

The White River National Wildlife Refuge, located in the southeastern portion of the 1st and shared with the 4th, routinely attracts tourists. Each year, thousands of enthusiasts travel to the migratory bird preserve.

Despite a history of electing few Republicans at either the state or federal level, the socially conservative and heavily Christian 1st elected Rep. Rick Crawford in 2010, sending a Republican to the U.S. House for the first time since 1875.

Major Industry

Agriculture, manufacturing, steel production

Cities

Jonesboro, 67,263; West Memphis, 26,245; Paragould, 26,113; Cabot, 23,776

Notable

Hattie Caraway, who in 1932 became the first woman elected to the U.S. Senate, lived in Jonesboro.

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