The Arkansas Campaign Trail: Hill, Elliott, Griffin Announce Q2 Fundraising Numbers

Voters at a Little Rock polling location in November 2018. New fundraising numbers have been released for the second district congressional race, showing a heated battle is underway.
Credit Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

The November election is less than four months away. In Arkansas, the marquee match up is for the second district congressional seat between incumbent U.S. Rep. French Hill, R-Little Rock and State Sen. Joyce Elliott, D-Little Rock.  The seat continues to be one Democrats, despite falling short over the last decade, hope to reclaim.

Hill’s campaign announced Monday that he raised “more than $270,000” during the second quarter and has about $1.455 million cash-on-hand. Elliott, who also ran for the Congressional seat in 2010, raised “over $600,000” in the second quarter bringing her total cash raised to more than $1 million and she finished the quarter with $715,000 cash-on-hand.

“The campaign took in over $460,000 in June alone, a sign of increasing momentum as election day draws closer,” an Elliott campaign statement read.

“Joyce is incredibly honored to be supported by such a diverse, grassroots-led coalition ready for change in November. It’s clear that Joyce’s message of service and inclusion resonates with Central Arkansans, and we’re confident voters will choose Joyce to fight for them in Congress,” said Elliott’s campaign manager, Rhonna-Rose Akama-Makia.

“One in ten of our donors works in education. Joyce is a teacher supported by teachers, and French Hill is a banker supported by bankers. The distinction is clear why Joyce would be the representative who truly works for everyone in Congress,” she added.

Hill’s campaign chairwoman, Judith Goodson, had some fiery remarks in a release disclosing Hill’s Q2 campaign figures.

“While Congressman Hill focused on the critical response to the coronavirus for Arkansans and Americans, including shepherding $6 billion in relief to Arkansas families and small businesses, his Nancy Pelosi/Elizabeth Warren/Kamala Harris-backed opponent was busy tapping the deep pockets of the country’s liberal elite for her own means. She even spent Palm Sunday stuffing her campaign coffers. This should come as no surprise, however, when you consider the fact that Congressman Hill’s opponent has always done whatever it takes to raise a dollar, including taking money from former lobbyist and convicted felon Rusty Cranford,” Goodson said.

“These are not the actions that reflect the values of Arkansas’s Second District voters, and in fact, when voters consider her self-serving tactics along with her liberal record on abortion, gun control, higher taxes, and her involvement with radical left-wing groups, they will choose again Congressman Hill to represent them in November,” she added.

It is July in Arkansas, so expect a little summer heat. Also, J. Glenn Smith is running as an independent in the race.

GRIFFIN GARNERING COMMITMENTS FOR 2022

Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin, R-Ark., who beat Joyce Elliott for Congress in 2010, announced last year he would run for Arkansas governor in 2022. On July 1, Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, R-Ark., said she’d join the race too.

Griffin’s head start may have been one of the unspoken reasons Rutledge felt the push to announce her intentions more than two years before November 2022.

Griffin will report his second quarter fundraising on July 15 and expect his number to be substantial. He will report roughly $569,000 raised during the quarter. Overall, his total funds raised will exceed $784,000 and he’ll report cash-on-hand of $763,000. Talk Business & Politics sources indicate there will be quite a few GOP heavy-hitters on his report.

Rutledge will not report any Q2 numbers as her announcement came after the June 30th deadline.

Of course, there are other Republicans considering running for governor in 2022, including former White House Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, State Sen. Jim Hendren and former Speaker of the House Davy Carter. No Democrats have announced for the seat.

THE EYES STILL HAVE IT

Initiated Act 1, which will pit the ophthalmologists versus the optometrists on the ballot in November 2020 to repeal an act passed by the state legislature in 2019, had another skirmish in its ongoing legal travails.

The crux of the political battle is whether to repeal Act 579, which broadened the scope of practice for optometrists into some procedures that have previously been limited to ophthalmologists. The law allows voters to consider repealing a measure through an initiated act process.

The legal battle is whether or not supporters of the repeal, Safe Surgery Arkansas, properly gathered signatures in the initiative process. There are a lot of allegations and findings – mostly centering around criminal background checks of paid canvassers – that are outlined in 22-page finding from a special master appointed by the Arkansas Supreme Court. If you like the underbelly of politics, you’ll also find some inside baseball notations involving alleged deceit, lying and fraud to coerce and count signatures.

Special Master Mark Hewett’s conclusions to the court on Monday are that the Secretary of State “erroneously included 51,911 total signatures in its verified and final count.”

“Therefore, after deducting the 51,911 invalid signatures from the Secretary of State report of 64,207 valid signatures, the remaining 12,116 valid signatures does not satisfy the 54,391 valid signature requirement,” he said. “Accordingly, I find that the sponsor, Safe Surgery Arkansas, submitted insufficient signatures to qualify for the November 3, 2020 General Election Ballot.”

This report is not decisive as it still has to be considered by the full Supreme Court for a final determination.

“We are pleased with the final report,” said Vicki Farmer, chairperson for Arkansans for Healthy Eyes, which represents the state’s optometrists. “The findings speak for themselves – the opposition did not follow petition requirements, leaving 51,911 signatures invalid, and therefore the measure does not qualify for the ballot. Of course, we will await the Court’s final say in the matter. In the meantime, we remain hopeful Arkansas patients will finally be able to benefit from the improved access to quality eye care Act 579 was put in place to provide.”

Safe Surgery Arkansas, which represents the ophthalmologists, released a statement, too:

“While we appreciate the special master’s hard work on this matter, we don’t believe a dispute over one word is a sufficient legal basis to silence the voices of tens of thousands of Arkansans who deserve the right to vote on this important health care policy in November,” said Dr. Laurie Barber, chairman of Safe Surgery Arkansas. “We are confident the Supreme Court will allow the signatures to remain and will protect Arkansas’s constitutional right to a referendum.”

REDISTRICTING, RANK VOTING GET OPPONENTS

Last week, there were signatures turned in for two potential constitutional amendments: redistricting and rank voting.

The redistricting proposal would create a nine-member commission of three Democrats, three Republicans and three independents to redraw Congressional and legislative district lines. It would take that power away from the heavily-GOP Arkansas legislature and the Board of Apportionment, which consists of the Governor, Attorney General and Secretary of State – all Republicans.

The rank voting proposal would allow for “open primaries” and result in the top four vote-getters in a race – regardless of party affiliation – to advance to the November general election. The third or fourth place finishers’ votes would be redistributed based on second choices to the first and second place finishers until someone achieves a majority of the vote.

A ballot question committee opposed to these two proposals called Arkansans for Transparency launched a campaign on Monday (July 13). Jonelle Fulmer of Fort Smith and Washington County Judge Joseph Wood will serve as co-chairs of the committee, with Will Rockefeller serving as the committee’s secretary. The co-chairs released the following statement:

“From the very beginning, the proponents of these two amendments have operated under a false guise of transparency in an attempt to both confuse and deceive the Arkansas electorate. This effort is being championed by out-of-state interests as a way of stealing elections right in our own backyard. They’ve essentially described Arkansas as a lab rat for their own social and election engineering efforts. It’s unacceptable, and it’s not the way we do things in Arkansas.

“For these reasons, Arkansans for Transparency has been established to protect the democratic process in our state and to fight for what all Arkansans want and deserve: full transparency at the ballot box. Arkansas voters – not out-of-state interests – decide our elections, and we fully expect that message to be sent loud and clear in November.”