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The Arkansas gubernatorial election of 1980 was only that state's third election since Reconstruction when a Republican candidate won the governorship, and the first in which an incumbent was defeated.
One-term Democratic Governor of Arkansas Bill Clinton was narrowly defeated by Republican Frank D. White, which made him, as he joked, "the youngest ex-governor in the nation." He ran again two years later and regained the governorship, continuing to serve until he was elected President of the United States in 1992. Both the Democratic and Republican primaries were held on May 27.
Bill Clinton, incumbent Governor
Monroe Schwarzlose, State Representative and candidate for Governor in 1978
Marshall Chrisman, former State Representative
Frank D. White, former head of the Arkansas Industrial Development Commission
Arkansas gubernatorial election, 1980 Wikipedia
Schwarzlose's unexpected strong challenge in primaries and his 31 percent of the primary vote foreshadowed that Clinton could be in trouble for the upcoming general election.
Clinton's increase in the cost of automobile registration tags was also unpopular. He was also hurt by President Jimmy Carter's decision to send thousands of Cuban refugees, some unruly, to a detention camp at Fort Chaffee, outside Fort Smith in Sebastian County in western Arkansas. (See Mariel boatlift.)
1980 general election was marked by decisive Republican victories—the GOP won the White House, a majority in United States Senate and 34 seats in the United States House of Representatives. Clinton's narrow loss was viewed as part of Reagan's coattails.
Frank White narrowly won the election.