BCN Executive Editor Wesley Brown – July 19, 2021 — Fundraising efforts for the 2022 gubernatorial race and other top statewide races in Arkansas picked up steam in the second quarter as Republican candidate Sarah Sanders Huckabee broke all previous records with a whopping $9.1 million campaign haul, most from out-of-state donors.
Although not as eye-popping, Democratic candidate and first-time office-seeker Chris Jones also saw an impressive launch to his 2022 race for governor, raising more than $587,000 in the first three weeks of his campaign start in June, according to quarterly campaign finance reports filed with the Secretary of State’s Office through June 30.
Both Jones and Huckabee are at the top of an increasingly crowded 2020 contest to replace popular Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who is term-limited through the end of 2022. Hutchinson has served two terms as Arkansas’ 46th governor, first elected in November 2013 by defeating former Arkansas Democratic Congressman Mike Ross of Prescott.
In 2018, Hutchinson was elected again in a landslide, easily defeating Democratic newcomer Jared Henderson in the general election with more than 65% of the popular vote, the largest margin in state history. Hutchinson was also the Republican nominee for governor in 2006 but was defeated by former Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe, who served from 2007 through 2013.
In the bid to replace Hutchinson, both Sanders-Huckabee and Attorney General Leslie Rutledge are running on a pro-Trump platform in a state where the former president won 67% of the statewide vote in the November 2020 general election. Sanders-Huckabee, the former White House spokesperson for former President Donald Trump, is also the daughter of former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who served in the corner office suite at the Arkansas State Capitol before Beebe and Hutchinson.
Sanders-Huckabee’s impressive campaign bounty of $7,683,024 for a primary challenge against Rutledge and $1,424,913 for the 2022 general election is the most ever raised for any statewide election in Arkansas. That grand total of $9,107,937, easily surpasses Hutchinson’s previous record of $5.97 billion in the 2018 election against Henderson.
By comparison, Rutledge has raised $1,064,289 for her primary challenge against Sanders-Huckabee and has another $383,000 in her campaign budget coffers if she beats the overwhelming odds and advances to the November 2022 general election.
Whoever advances out of the Republican primary will likely have a decided advantage in campaign finances and electability against any Democratic challenger. Currently, the Arkansas GOP dominates all three branches of governor with a popular governor, a supermajority in the Arkansas House and Senate, and a Republican-leaning state Supreme Court.
Still, Jones’ fresh candidacy has brought a new level of excitement to the Democratic Party, which has seen a record number of Black candidates running for the office. Jones’ fundraising efforts in the first few weeks of his campaign is already less than $100,000 from the $664,456 total raised by Henderson in the 2018 race against Hutchinson.
If the fundraising totals through June 30 for the ailing and crowded Democratic gubernatorial race are any tell-tale sign, Jones will have a decided advantage over other party challengers heading into the 2022 spring primary. To date, the Democratic ticket includes businesswoman Supha Xayprasith-Mays, James “Rus” Russell and Anthony Bland, who ran for Lt. Governor in 2018. None of those candidates have raised more than $7,500 outside their own pockets, quarterly campaign filings show.
In other top statewide races, Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin has raised an impressive $1.86 million in his bid to become Arkansas’ next attorney general. Earlier this year, Griffin dropped out of the race for governor shortly after Huckabee-Sanders released her first round of campaign contributions. To date, the race to replace Rutledge as AG includes three Republicans and two Democrats.
On the GOP ticket, Leon Jones Jr. launched his bid to be Arkansas’ next AG in early 2021 after announcing that he would take his campaign to the people by visiting all 75 counties in the state. According to campaign financial data, Jones is well behind Griffin in fundraising with $48,050 in campaign contributions through June 30.
Jones and his younger brother, the leading Democratic candidate with the same last name, are looking to make history on several fronts as the first Black candidates and siblings from different parties to seek Arkansas’ highest offices. The other Republican candidate for Arkansas AG is Cody Hiland, the former U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas in Little Rock. He has raised less than $19,000 to become the next Arkansas AG, quarterly campaign filings show.
On the Democratic ticket, Little Rock attorney Jesse Gibson has raised just over $87,000 after announcing his bid to become the next Arkansas AG. He will face Jason Davis in the Democratic primary, also a local attorney who has raised less than $4,000 to date.
In other statewide races, pro-Trump Republican Rep. Mark Lowery of Maumelle has announced plans to run for the Secretary of State office in 2022. Incumbent Republican John Thurston currently serves in the position as Arkansas’ top election official. Lowery is the chief sponsor of lobbyist-written, cookie-cutter voter suppression bills that were approved by the Republican supermajority during the 2021 legislative session.
The Maumelle Republican also authored failed legislation during the 2021 general assembly to prohibit the use of public funds to teach any curriculum related to the controversial 1619 Project or other so-called critical race theory courses. A rabid supporter of former President Trump, Lowery’s Facebook pages include images and posts in support of Jan. 6 insurrection at the nation’s capital and that the 2020 election was stolen.
The winner of the GOP primary race in the secretary of state’s race will face off against Joshua Price, the lone Democrat candidate who now serves on the Pulaski County Election Commission. As the incumbent, Thurston already has over $27,000 in his campaign budget coffers, while Price has raised nearly $14,000. Lowery announced his candidacy on June 30, the last day for quarterly campaign finance reports.
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