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Candidates for Arkansas governor in home stretch of their campaigns

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Josie Lenora
/
KUAR News
Republican gubernatorial nominee Sarah Huckabee Sanders and her husband Bryan talk with a veteran during a campaign event Tuesday in Jacksonville.

With early voting underway for the Nov. 8 election, Arkansas' candidates for governor are making final appearances in campaign rallies around the state.

Republican Sarah Huckabee Sanders headlined a packed meet and greet event Tuesday at the Jacksonville Community Center. She spoke about education, crime, safety and “empowering Arkansas.” Sanders was joined on stage by Republican U.S. Sens. Tom Cotton and John Boozman.

“I’m tired of watching Arkansas compete at the bottom,” Sanders said. “I'm tired of us being 46th and 47th and 48th in all the places where I know we can be first and second.”

During her speech, Sanders spoke against the state's income tax and "government dependence." She also talked about making communities safer by thanking and adequately funding police.

Sanders said her three children have influenced her political decisions.

"My kids serve as a perfect reminder of everything we have at stake," she said. “The Arkansas that I love, the Arkansas I grew up in, is not going to be the Arkansas my children grow up in if we don't start doing something about it.”

During her speech, Sanders also talked about education.

“If we don’t start prioritizing education in the state of Arkansas, we will never be competitive,” Sanders said, explaining she wants to “educate students and not indoctrinate them.”

After the event, Sanders expanded on her education policies with reporters, saying too much money from the state budget goes into education.

“If we are going to continue pouring billions of dollars into this, we need to get something out of it,” she said. Her education plan would be affordable with the state budget, Sanders said, adding that she supports merit pay for teachers and more curriculum transparency.

Meanwhile, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris Jones spoke at a pair of voter engagement events in his hometown of Pine Bluff. One was at the Jefferson County Courthouse where early voting is underway, the other took place at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff.

Earlier Tuesday in Little Rock, Jones spoke with KUAR News about voting with his family, which he called an annual tradition.

“We're laying the groundwork for an amazing Arkansas that benefits all Arkansans,” he said.

Jones said he is watching for any kind of interference in the election.

“I haven’t seen things that are nefarious,” he said, “I have only seen things that are concerning that we have to watch out for.”

Sanders suggested laws passed by the legislature last year will ensure a fair election process.

“I think we absolutely have to have integrity in our election,” Sanders said. “I've been talking about it for a while. We’re lucky that we have a state that has passed legislation to do exactly that, make sure we have free and fair elections.”

Sanders and Jones face Libertarian Ricky Dale Harrington Jr. in the Nov. 8 election.

Josie Lenora is the Politics/Government Reporter for UA Little Rock Public Radio.
Daniel Breen is a Little Rock-based reporter, anchor and producer for KUAR.