Statewide Arkansas races feature little competition for Republicans

Three statewide races are before voters on the Nov. 8 General Election ballot.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders is hoping to keep the state’s Governor’s mansion in Republican control as she runs to replace incumbent Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who is not seeking re-election due to term limits. 

Sanders faces Democrat Chris Jones. If she pulls off a victory she’ll make the state’s top elected post something of a family affair. Her father, Mike Huckabee, served as Arkansas Governor from 1996 until 2007. He also ran unsuccessfully for President in 2008 and 2016.

Jones is the son of two preachers and puts great value in his faith, but vows that faith “has never collided with my love for science,” a nod to issues like climate change and abortion. Jones is running on a host of “promises,” including protecting reproductive rights. He supports expanded solar energy, environmental justice, criminal justice reform, mental health care, education and “common sense measures to reduce unnecessary violence, while protecting the constitutional right to own guns,” among other issues. 

Jones’ campaign is taking a moderate tack in red Arkansas. Republican voters nearly double Democrats in the state, with 614,785 GOP voters and just 376,017 Democrats. But more than 600,000 of the state’s voters are non-partisan, according to the latest L2 voter data. Tapping into those unaffiliated voters is crucial to Jones’ chance at victory.

But even still, it’s a long shot. FiveThirtyEight puts Sanders at +17.7 in the race, at a 55.1% support in an aggregate of polls compared to Jones’ 37.4%.

Sanders, a former spokesperson for former President Donald Trump, has run a campaign largely focused on crime, an issue Republicans this cycle have found success with nationwide. Her “Safe, stronger Arkansas” plan claims to provide solutions to violent crime with provisions against defunding police departments and new investments in police training and overtime. She also wants to increase prison capacity to ease the backlog in county jails. Sanders has also joined other Republicans in supporting education measures that oppose “indoctrinating” students to liberal ideals.

Senate

Incumbent Republican U.S. Senator John Boozman faces Democratic challenger Natalie James in a race that features little competition.

Boozman has a 20-point lead over James, according to the latest poll from Politics-Hendrix College. That lead grew from 14 points in a previous survey, showing Boozman not only has the lead, he has the momentum. 

Boozman has represented Arkansas in the Senate since 2011. He opposes abortion, but supports bans with exceptions for rape or incest or in cases where the mother’s life is endanger. He is also pro-farmer and hopes to chair the Senate’s Agriculture Committee if Republicans win control of the chamber this election. 

A Libertarian candidate, Kenneth Cates, is also in the race. 

Secretary of State

Incumbent Republican John Thurston faces Democratic challenger Anna Beth Gorman in another race where Republicans are expected to dominate. 

Gorman is the executive director for the Women’s Foundation of Arkansas, a non-profit that focuses on empowering women and girls in the state. In her role, she focuses on building women’s economic security in Arkansas, including through an initiative that seeks to introduce girls to education and career paths in emerging occupations in STEAM — science, technology, engineering, arts and math. 

Thurston is seeking his second term as Secretary of State. He touts returning more than $118 million to counties, with 80% benefitting education. He opposed House Resolution 1 in Congress, which would have implemented automatic voter registration nationwide, restored voting rights to felons who have served their sentence, restored the Voting Rights Act, prohibited voter roll purges and regulated voter ID laws, among other provisions. 

Other statewide races

Two races were decided earlier this year when Republican Lt. Gov. candidate Leslie Rutledge and Republican Attorney General candidate Tim Griffin were elected without opposition. 




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