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Arkansas Rep. Linda Collins-Smith switches to GOP

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Arkansas state Rep. Linda Collins-Smith of Pocahontas announced Wednesday she is switching from the Democratic to the Republican Party.

Collins-Smith formally announced the move following a meeting of the House Republican caucus at the state Capital.

The change narrows the Democratic majority in the 100-member state House of Representatives to 54. Democrats hold a 20-15 majority in the state Senate.

Collins-Smith, 49, represents a district that includes Randolph County and a portion of Sharp County in northeast Arkansas. Her seat was redistricted, meaning she would have had to stand against the incumbent Republican next year.

The party switch comes as Republicans say they believe they have a chance to win control of one or both chambers of the state Legislature. The GOP made historic gains at all levels of government in traditionally Democrat Arkansas, including at the legislative level.

All 135 seats in the state Legislature will be up for election next year because of redistricting.

A spokesman for Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe said Collins-Smith had not reached out to him about her plans and declined to comment before her official announcement.

Republicans hold three of the seven constitutional offices in historically Democratic Arkansas, in addition to three of the state's four U.S. House seats and one of the state's U.S. Senate seats.