Arkansas gubernatorial election, 1980

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Arkansas gubernatorial election, 1980
1978 ←
November 4, 1980
→ 1982

  Frank D. White 1995.jpg Bill Clinton.jpg
Nominee Frank D. White Bill Clinton
Party Republican Democratic
Popular vote 435,684 403,241
Percentage 51.93% 48.07%


Election results by county

Governor before election

Bill Clinton

Elected Governor

Frank D. White

The Arkansas gubernatorial election of 1980 was only that state’s third election since Reconstruction when a Republican candidate won 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.

Democratic nomination[edit]

In primary (held on May 17) Clinton easily won renomination, gained 306,735 (68.87%) votes against 138,660 (31.13%) won by State Representative and 1978 candidate Monroe Schwarzlose.[1]

Republican nomination[edit]

In the Republican Party primaries (May 27), former head of the Arkansas Industrial Development Commission under Winthrop Rockefeller and former Democrat Frank D. White earned 5,867 (71.75%) votes against former State Representative Marshall Chrisman.[2]


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 sending 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 election.[3]

Arkansas gubernatorial election, 1980
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Republican Frank D. White 435,684 51.98
Democratic Bill Clinton 403,241 48.07
Republican gain from Democratic Swing