A suburb of Little Rock, Benton is a great example of the conservative wave overtaking the state. Arkansas was one of the most reliably Democratic states in the country until 2012, when Barack Obama lost the state to Mitt Romney by 24 points. Romney won 70 percent of Benton and Saline County. More than half of Benton's registered voters identify as Republicans, which is why the city is making its second appearance on our list of the Best Cities for Conservatives. The city ranked 10th on our 2014 list.
In 1996, Tim Hutchinson became the first Republican elected to the U.S. Congress from Arkansas since Reconstruction. He was soon followed by Republicans Tom Cotton and John Boozman, who were elected to the U.S. Senate. While Benton has supported Republican candidates with their vote, the city's elected officials return the favor in spades. U.S. Rep. French Hill (R-Benton) supported a $500,000 grant to restore the Old River Bridge, which crosses the Saline River in Benton. The bridge is the second-oldest in Arkansas and once restored will serve as a part of a pedestrian and bike trail linking Little Rock and Hot Springs.
Hill cited the bridge's connection to Benton's Civil War legacy as one reason for his support. Like Hill, Benton residents are proud of their Southern heritage. A Civil War Sesquicentennial Marker will soon find a home in Saline County.
Benton offers a slice of Americana – with low crime, locally owned restaurants, shops lining downtown and Friday night football. Watching the Benton High School Panthers compete is a favorite area pastime.