Arkansas senate seat goes to Democrats

(Little Rock-AP) -- Democrat Mark Pryor was declared the winner over Republican Senator Tim Hutchinson -- a victory that returns the son of former Senator David Pryor to his father's seat.

Hutchinson divorced his wife and married an aide during his term and failed to energize his conservative base. Hutchinson earlier addressed supporters at his Little Rock watch party and did NOT concede the race. He said he wanted to see more results from his base in northwest Arkansas.

Rarely had two Arkansans competed for a U.S. Senate seat with so much at stake. President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney each made two trips to the state this year -- both within days of the election -- to underscore the national importance of a race that, with a handful of others across the country, would determine control of the national agenda and the evenly split Senate.

Hutchinson and Pryor raised and spent a record eight million dollars between them. And, the major parties and special interest groups threw in tens of millions more in the soft-money, free-for-all. Big money bankrolled a bitter campaign in which each candidate accused the other of spreading misinformation, distortions and outright lies.

The 53-year-old Hutchinson tried to battle the Pryor family name and his own personal failures to win a second term as the only Republican ever popularly elected to the U.S. Senate from Arkansas.

A Christian conservative who campaigned on a family values theme six years ago, Hutchinson divorced his wife of 29 years and married a former member of his Washington staff during his first term. The 39-year-old Pryor drew support from his father, former Senator David Pryor, who made appearances in ads and at rallies for his son.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)