Republicans Cotton and Hutchinson Back Minimum Wage Ballot Item

Sep 5, 2014

Republican Senator hopeful Tom Cotton says he will vote for a ballot item to raise the state’s minimum wage from $6.25 an hour to $8.50 an hour by 2017. Cotton stated his position Friday morning on a conservative talk radio program.

The secretary of state’s office announced the measure would be on the ballot earlier this week. Since then Cotton and Republican gubernatorial nominee Asa Hutchinson said they would back the measure.

University of Arkansas Journalism Professor Hoyt Purvis contends Cotton and Hutchinson may have shifted their support because of polling.

“It is a little surprising you have to say and there are several ways to look at it. One would be that they simply recognize that there appears to be a lot of public support for this measure. Therefore they wanted to be on the right side of the issue after having been on the fence or even implicitly opposed to this,” said Purvis.

Hutchinson previously said he wanted the legislature – not voters – to pass any increases. This week he promised to push the legislature to increase the state minimum wage the federal minimum of $7.25. Some Arkansans are currently paid under the federal minimum. In 2013 the legislature failed to pass an increase out of committee. 

Purvis, a long-time journalism professor at UA, said Cotton’s and Hutchinson’s newfound support could also be an attempt to mitigate what Democrats hoped to be an issue that would turn out their base in a non-Presidential election.

“Given the fact that they’ve had many opportunities to express their support, they are doing so only it appears to be guaranteed a place on the ballot. So, maybe they think that by making it less controversial it might lead to less turnout,” said Purivs.

Hutchinson announced his support Thursday in Newport. Cotton said he backed the ballot measure Friday morning on the conservative talk radio program The Alice Stewart Show.

Gubernatorial candidates Mike Ross (D) and Joshua Drake (G) have backed the $8.50 wage since the beginning of their campaigns. Drake wants to push the legislature to pass a $10 an hour minimum wage.

Democratic senate nominee Mark Pryor and Green Party candidate Mark Swaney also back the ballot item to raise the state minimum wage to $8.50 an hour. Pryor does not support a Congressional effort to pass a $10 an hour minimum wage while Swaney does back the proposal.

Libertarian gubernatorial candidate Frank Gilbert opposes the wage hike as does senate candidate Nathan LaFrance.