A Service of UA Little Rock
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Dozens of candidates file to run as Arkansas Democrats

From left to right: Democratic Party Chair Grant Tenielle, Strategic Director Will Watson, and Vice Chair Jannie Cotton.
Josie Lenora
Little Rock Public Radio
From left to right: Democratic Party of Arkansas Chair Grant Tennille, Strategic Director Will Watson and Vice Chair Jannie Cotton speak at the State Capitol in Little Rock on Tuesday.

Tuesday was the last day to file to run for office in Arkansas.

The Democratic Party of Arkansas has put forth 65 candidates to run for legislative seats from across the state, something the party says is a record. Additionally, the Democrats fielded four candidates to challenge incumbent members of the U.S. House of Representatives.

The Republican Party has a supermajority in both the Arkansas House and Senate, the biggest held by the party in state history. Republicans also occupy every national political position in the state.

On the final day to file, Democrats held a press conference to discuss their slate of candidates. Party Chair Grant Tennille was joined by Vice Chair Jannie Cotton.

“More than a dozen seats that were not contested last year will have Democrats running this time,” Cotton said. “Voters in several parts of Arkansas will have a Democrat on the ballot for the first time in many years.”

Cotton has run in the past for a position in the state House of Representatives. She lost the race to Rep. Karilyn Brown, R-Sherwood, by about 500 votes. Cotton described herself as an optimist, saying while many of the candidates running for state office may not win, she believes in “planting seeds.”

Tennille said he wants to capitalize on what he sees as the recent unpopularity of the state GOP.

“I need to thank Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders and her staff,” he said. “Gov. Sanders has done more to help the Democratic Party than anyone we've seen in years."

Tennille leaned on the passage of the Arkansas LEARNS Act, the governor's purchase of an expensive lectern and rollbacks of the Freedom of Information Act to feed this assertion.

The Democratic Party spent weeks across 50 counties scouting the new recruits, many of whom are somewhat new to politics. O’Dell Carr is running against Republican Speaker of the House Matthew Shepherd in District 97, representing El Dorado. He was confident he could win.

“The next steps are obviously to learn the process of what it’s about running for political office,” he said. “Putting the right people around me to provide the kind of guidance and direction, that will be necessary to be successful at this undertaking.”

Carr works as a Baptist preacher. He quoted repeatedly from passages of his book about Black history, and was passionate about making sure it's taught in schools.

University of Central Arkansas lecturer Doug Corbitt is filling to run against Rep. Mary Bentley, R-Perryville, to represent House District 54. He said he had decided the day before to run for the position.

“At the moment I am untutored and uncertain, but I will do my best and I will learn a lot.”

Representatives for the Republican Party of Arkansas say they do not endorse candidates until the general election.

Josie Lenora is the Politics/Government Reporter for Little Rock Public Radio.