In a hotly contested run-off, veteran Arkansas Sen. Blanche Lincoln bucked many pundit predictions to beat ex-Clinton official (and current Arkansas lieutenant governor) Bill Halter on Tuesday.

Lincoln won the Democratic primary 52-48 percent despite Halter’s backing by unions and left-leaning groups unhappy with the incumbent’s voting record.

Referencing the funds flowing to Halter, in recent weeks, Lincoln repeatedly spoke out against “outsiders” trying to gain influence in race.

In winning the Democratic nomination, not only did Lincoln survive the nation’s current anti-incumbent leanings, she also provided hope that her farm-dependent home state can hold on to the Senate Agriculture Committee chair. The first woman and Arkansan to hold the chair, Lincoln took over the position last September.

As chairman, Lincoln introduced legislation aimed at stricter oversight of banks involved in credit swaps. Unhappy with the proposals, banks are now lobbying against the reforms as the House and Senate prepare to reconcile separate bills.

After victory had been assured Tuesday night, Lincoln released a statement saying, “President Clinton called me tonight when it was clear we were going to win and said, ‘Blanche, you’re the new Comeback Kid!’”

Clinton — despite having been Halter’s boss while in the White House — campaigned for Lincoln late in the run-off campaign. He, too, derided the influx of outside money flowing into Halter’s coffers.

“Tomorrow, when all those outsiders who flooded the state get back on their airplanes and buses to go back where they came from, our campaign will stay rooted right here in Arkansas,” continued Lincoln. “We have the best volunteers and the best organization and we are ready for the next set of challenges. I am completely confident that by sticking together we will win again in November! If tonight is proof of anything, it’s that when we stand together we can accomplish great things.”

Next up to take a shot at Lincoln’s Senate seat is five-term Republican Rep. John Boozman, a northwest Arkansas-based businessman.

e-mail: dbennett@farmpress.com