Former Pine Bluff Mayor Dutch King can largely credit the city’s voters for his decisive victory in the Nov. 6 Jefferson County judge’s race. A Democrat, King garnered 73 percent of the votes in a 19,077-6,997 win over District 12 Justice of the Peace Ted Harden, a White Hall Republican.
But he achieved an even more impressive win by netting 53 percent of the ballots in Harden’s home area, recognized as the county’s GOP core.
King notched the most votes at White Hall First Baptist Church, one of the city’s two polling places. He led in each of the six precincts voting at the church, picking up 794 nods to Harden’s 600. The margin represented a 57-percent command for King.
At White Hall City Hall, Harden collected 651 votes to King’s 641 for a percentage split of 50.4-49.6. But overall, King outpaced Harden in White Hall by 1,435-1,251.
Harden, a 16-year JP who was unopposed for re-election to that post, enjoyed a 507-293 edge at nearby Jefferson, where he has traditionally fared well. Harden also led in Redfield with a 316-213 showing. Those counts carried respective winning percentages of .625 and .597, but even the combined Jefferson and Redfield margin of 823-506 weren’t enough to lift Harden into serious contention.
“I think it’s just one of those things,” Harden said. “I think there were some underlying factors, the biggest of which was that he had a primary and I didn’t. That gave him an advantage with carry-over momentum.”
Assistant Pine Bluff Police Chief Ivan Whitfield, who is black, led a three-candidate Democratic primary in May but was forced into a runoff by King, who is white. King’s win resulted from his backing by a mostly-white contingent outside predominantly black Pine Bluff, where Whitfield led. The county has a majority non-black population.
Harden, who is white, said he had supporters of all races, but nevertheless realized “this was a big Democratic year” with President Barack Obama “as a strong incumbent.”
“Politics are subject to a lot of variables,” said Harden. “I’m disappointed that I didn’t win but I’m not disgruntled. I called and congratulated Dutch after the votes were in and told him I was looking forward to working with him closely as a JP. I think I’m in a position to help him with my experience on the quorum court. I know we both want to do what’s best for the county, and I hope the people of District 12 are pleased with my service over the past 16 years.”
Jefferson County Republican Committee Chairman Peter Smykla of Pine Bluff said he’s a friend of both King and Harden and believes they’ll both continue to serve the public well.
“I’m happy that we’ve still got Ted as a JP, and I know Dutch is also well-qualified to be county judge,” said Smykla. “‘I’ve known both of them for a number of years.”
Smykla believes he’s got a good idea why King, who couln’t be reached for comment, won.
“This,” Smykla laughed, “is Democrat country.”