Arkansas Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris Jones shakes up campaign staff; hires Black-led political consulting firm

Arkansas Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris Jones shakes up campaign staff; hires Black-led political consulting firm

BCN Executive Editor Wesley Brown – Sept. 15, 2021 — With quarterly campaign finance report just ahead at the end of the month, the top Arkansas Democratic fundraiser in the 2022 race for the state’s next governor is shaking up his staff.

On Tuesday, Democratic candidate Chris Jones said he has tapped Think Rubix LLC, a local Black-owned tech firm led by veteran political operatives Tristan Wilkerson and DeJuana Thompson, to expand his campaign efforts across the state. In announcing his new campaign hires, Jones said he hired Think Rubix to adapt the campaign to fully represent his background and life experiences.

“I wanted to be intentional with what looks like and represents me and the goal of the campaign,” said Jones, who first announced his historic gubernatorial candidacy in June. “Think Rubix is a national company with a local approach. With their combined experiences, they are able to tailor best practices to individuals like myself.”

“Among many factors, there is one thing that stands out about Dr. Jones’ historic bid for Governor that is also true at Think Rubix – for both, we are all-in on Arkansas. Our work at Think Rubix is rooted in connecting with people. And we look forward to working in every county, across political ideology, to accomplish Dr. Jones’ goal of building a place that Arkansans will be all-the-more proud to call home,” added Wilkerson, managing principal at the tech-enabled political and business consulting firm.

A local entrepreneur who sits on the board of the Little Rock Technology Park Authority, Wilkerson is a former congressional staffer and aide who served as a political director to Bernie Sanders 2016 and special advisor to Democratic Super PAC Priorities USA. A native of Little Rock, Wilkerson graduated from Little Rock Central High before going on to earn his MBA.

Jones’ camp said Thompson is also a seasoned political strategist, serving as the former National Director for Community Engagement at the Democratic National Committee and creator of Woke Vote. She appears as a regular contributor to MSNBC and CNN on race, politics, and community engagement strategies. She’s a graduate of Berea College and George Washington University.

Think Rubix, which has satellite offices in Birmingham, Ala., San Francisco and Washington, D.C., as well as the downtown Tech Park in Little Rock, also recently brought on Rhonna-Rose Akama-Makia as director of their public affairs-based Engagement Studio. Akama-Makia is the former campaign manager for Joyce Elliott’s bid for Arkansas Second District seat. Jones said Think Rubix will support outreach and day-to-day campaign management and operations led by Akama-Makia.

Jones’ campaign overhaul comes as Sarah Sanders-Huckabee, the Republican Party’s 2022 gubernatorial candidate who has already blown away all past fundraising records for state office in Arkansas, has begun running daily TV advertisement that styles her as the leading Pro-Trump candidate to replace the popular GOP Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who is term limited.

In July, BlackConsumerNew.com reported (here) that Sanders-Huckabee broke all previous Arkansas records for statewide office with a whopping $9.1 million campaign haul, most from out-of-state donors. Although not as eye-popping, 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 Hutchinson, who has served two terms as Arkansas’ 46th governor. He was 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. In her most recent TV and online campaign spots, Sanders-Huckabee fully embraces her time in the Trump White House with frequent images of her with the former GOP Commander-in-Chief, who continues to embrace the false notion that he won the 2020 presidential election against current President Joe Biden.

Jones, a first-time candidate for public office, got office to a hot start after his launch on June 15 and brought a new level of excitement to the Democratic Party, which has seen a record number of Black candidates running for the office. Jones’ campaign to be Arkansas’ first Black governor garnered national attention with a viral video highlighting his background as a nuclear engineer and minister with strong family and generation ties to Arkansas.

That campaign launch video (here), which featured his wife Dr. Jerrilyn Jones, an emergency room physician at the University of Arkansas for Medical Science, and three daughters, has now been viewed more than 4.7 million times on social media platforms.  Those impressive campaign kickoff statistics now fully establishes Jones as the frontrunner on the Democratic ticket, which includes a current slate of candidates with weak public policy resumes.

Jones’ fundraising efforts in the first few weeks of his campaign is only less than $100,000 from the $664,456 total raised by Henderson in the 2018 race against Hutchinson. 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.

The next quarterly campaign filing period for 2022 political candidates with the Arkansas Secretary of State office is Sept. 30.

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