Arkansas Elections

A Washington-based group is preparing to launch television ads targeting Arkansas Supreme Court Justice Courtney Goodson in her re-election bid, two years after it spent more than $600,000 on spots aimed at Goodson during her unsuccessful campaign to lead the high court.

Filings with the Federal Communications Commission indicate that the Judicial Crisis Network has spent more than $96,000 to air ads in the Little Rock and northwest Arkansas areas over the next week. A filing from one station says the ads focused on criticism of Goodson.

Daniel Breen / KUAR News

With early voting for primary elections set to begin May 7, the four Democrats seeking to run against Republican incumbent French Hill for Arkansas’s 2nd District U.S. Congressional seat gathered for their second debate Monday.

In the Republican gubernatorial primary, incumbent Asa Hutchinson has secured an endorsement from Arkansas Right to Life. In a statement, Hutchinson praised the group and touted lengthening waiting periods for women to get an abortion, parental consent laws, and blocking Medicaid funding to Planned Parenthood.

Voter ID Vote photo ID
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Arkansas officials are appealing a judge's order blocking the state from enforcing a voter ID law nearly identical to a measure struck down as unconstitutional four years ago.

Almost all the action in Democratic state House primaries next month is taking place in central Arkansas. The seat for House District 33 is open after a high profile incumbent, Warwick Sabin, announced he is exploring a run for mayor.

The primary election is between Tippi McCullough and Ross Noland. The primary winner faces no opposition in the November general election.

Take a listen to the audio link above to hear the candidates thoughts about education, UAMS, public safety, and legislative leadership.

Arkansas's highest court has rejected an effort to force the state's attorney general to approve the wording of a ballot measure that would legalize casinos in four counties.

The state Supreme Court on Monday denied a petition by Driving Arkansas Forward, the group trying to put the casinos legalization measure on the ballot in November.

Gwen Combs at the Women's March for Arkansas in January 2017.
Combs Campaign.

Gwen Combs, one of four Democratic candidates in the 2nd Congressional District primary, has secured an endorsement from the National Organization for Women. NOW describes itself as the “largest organization of feminist grassroots activists in the United States.”

In a statement to the Combs’ campaign, the president of the Arkansas NOW chapter said, "Since 1966, NOW has worked to empower women at work, at home, under the law, in health choices and as equal citizens. Gwen's steadfast leadership demonstrates that she will prioritize full equality for women and girls if elected."

Leslie Rutledge
Governor's Office

A group seeking a public vote on expanded gambling in Arkansas is asking the state Supreme Court to force Attorney General Leslie Rutledge to approve and certify the ballot title.

The group Driving Arkansas Forward filed a petition Tuesday with the state's high court.

Driving Arkansas Forward is trying to put a proposal on the November ballot to legalize casinos in Jefferson and Pope counties, as well as at the Oaklawn horse track in Hot Springs and at the Southland greyhound track in West Memphis.

Doyle Webb
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Will Arkansas see the impact of a Democratic blue wave in this year’s elections? The chairs of the Democratic and Republican parties of Arkansas walked through their electoral ambitions this cycle, at Thursday’s meeting of the Political Animals Club.

Doyle Webb, the head of the state’s Republican Party, said he doesn’t see much cause to worry about a so-called negative “Trump effect.”

Second Congressional District candidate Clarke Tucker (D).
clarketucker.com

A frontrunner has emerged – at least in financial backing – in the four-person U.S. Second Congressional District Democratic primary. Clarke Tucker’s campaign reported a first quarter fundraising total of over a half-million dollars, ending the period with $440,000 cash on hand. Republican incumbent French Hill has $1.3-million cash on hand. Tucker’s only been running since February 5th.

The four-person Democratic primary field for central Arkansas’s 2nd District U.S. House seat held a debate Wednesday evening and agreed on most of the issues. Jonathan Dunkley, Clarke Tucker, Gwen Combs, and Paul Spencer all shared the stage for the debate hosted by KATV and Talk Business and Politics. 

Check out the audio link above for a recap of the debate and click here to watch the full debate.

One of the founders of the Indivisible movement says Arkansas Democrats did a fair job of candidate recruitment compared to an anemic 2016 slate but the state party didn’t stack up as well it should have. The candidate filing period closed last week for Arkansas elections.

Listen to the full interview in the link posted above.

Co-author of the Indivisible Guide, Billy Fleming told KUAR it’s good that Democrats are running in every Congressional race and in 57 legislative seats (49 in 2016) but it pales compared to other states.

Mass shootings in schools, concerts, and even army bases are a familiar specter in the United States of America over the last decade or so and there is a lot of daylight between how a Democrat and a Republican 2nd District Congressman would address it.

KUAR’s Jacob Kauffman asks the faces – some old and some new - hoping to represent central Arkansas in the U.S. House after November’s election, what do they plan to do about guns and mass shootings.

Libertarian candidate for governor Mark West.
KATV

Mark West is throwing his hat in the ring for the race for Arkansas governor. The pastor and business manager out of Batesville filed to run on Monday after being nominated over the weekend at the Libertarian Party of Arkansas’s convention in Little Rock. The governor’s office tops the Libertarian ballot for a number of reasons. Notably, the party’s gubernatorial or presidential candidate has to get three-percent of the vote if it is to retain ballot access in the next election. For the past four election cycles its fallen short of that threshold and had to petition its way on the ballot.

Arkansas Department of Transportation.

Frank Scott Jr., who has formed an exploratory committee to run for mayor of Little Rock, has filed a counter claim against an effort backed by Mayor Mark Stodola to stop Scott from raising funds. The city has filed suit in Pulaski County Circuit Court to stop Scott and Warwick Sabin from raising money with exploratory committees.

A city ordinance bars campaign fundraising until June 1st. But the Arkansas Ethics Commission has said exploratory committees are allowed. Scott suggests Mayor Stodola is trying to control the election process.

littlerock.gov

Both potential electoral challengers to Mayor Mark Stodola are firing back this week against a city-backed lawsuit to stop them from raising money through exploratory committees. Warwick Sabin moved on Tuesday (here and here) to dismiss the city’s suit in Pulaski County Circuit Court.

Arkansas Times

Grassroots electoral organizing in the Indivisible and "Resistance" strain continues to gain steam in Arkansas, with the launch this week of a new project Progressive Latinx in Arkansas Politics. Springdale-based organizer Irvin Camacho is spearheading the effort. He says the moment is right for Arkansas’s growing Latino population to become ingrained in the state’s electoral politics.

One of the many items being shuffled around Congress in short-term spending crises is funding for Community Health Centers. KUAR's Jacob Kauffman talks with U.S. Representative French Hill (R-2nd District) about healthcare, a short-term budget deal against a government shutdown deadline, and November elections.

Voter ID Vote photo ID
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

A lawsuit challenging Arkansas' new voter ID law has been filed, arguing the requirement causes the same problems as a nearly identical law that was struck down four years ago.

The lawsuit filed by a voter in Pulaski County Circuit Court on Wednesday is challenging the measure's constitutionality ahead of the state's May 22 primary. Early voting for the primary begins May 7.

State Rep. Clarke Tucker (D-Little Rock).
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR

State Rep. Clarke Tucker says he will seek the Democratic nomination for Arkansas’s second congressional district. The lawmaker from Little Rock announced Monday he will file paperwork for the office later this month.

Democrats Paul Spencer and Gwen Combs are also seeking the party’s nomination. Incumbent Republican Congressman French Hill is running for his third term.

Governor Asa Hutchinson opened his campaign headquarters this week but he'll have to defeat his Republican primary opponent in May if he wants to make it to November. Hot Springs business owner and political pundit Jan Morgan has been taking the fight to the incumbent governor, traversing the state to talk to a host of varied groups. Morgan spoke with KUAR’s Jacob Kauffman about what separates her from Hutchinson.

Regnat Populus Chairman Paul Spencer
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR

Second District U.S. Congressional hopeful Paul Spencer is characterizing his end of the year fundraising efforts as a vindication of his principles to never take PAC or corporate money for his 2018 election effort. Spencer’s position that only individual donors should contribute to electoral campaigns is not shared by his Democratic primary opponent Gwen Combs or Republican incumbent French Hill.

Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Jared Henderson.
KUAR

A Democrat has announced intent to run for the governor’s office in 2018. Jared Henderson was the executive director of Teach for America’s Arkansas division from 2013 to 2017 and is centering his campaign in part on “making teachers one of the most important professions in the state.” The 39-year old Arkansas native declared Tuesday he’s seeking his party’s nomination.

Gwen Combs at the Women's March for Arkansas in January 2017.
Combs Campaign.

Democrat Gwendolynn Combs marked her entrance into the 2nd Congressional District race on Monday night with a campaign launch event in downtown Little Rock. Combs’s presence means a Democratic primary between her and Paul Spencer. The winner will face Republican incumbent French Hill who is seeking a third-term in the U.S. House.

KUAR spoke with Spencer earlier this year at the time he announced his intent to run.

East Arkansas Democrats will have a primary election on their hands for the First District Congressional seat. Chintan Desai announced today he’s seeking the party’s nomination and to unseat Republican incumbent Rick Crawford in 2018.

In a campaign launch statement, Desai immediately points out that his roots are outside of Arkansas, “I wasn’t born or raised here, but I’ve been proud to call Arkansas home for the past seven years.” The California native is the son of Indian immigrants. Arkansas has never elected a person who isn’t white to Congress.

Leslie Rutledge attorney general
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Arkansas’s Attorney General is the new chair of the Republican Attorneys General Association. The organization primarily focuses on raising election funds for Republican incumbents.

In addition to trying to fulfill the obligations of serving as this state’s attorney general, Leslie Rutledge has agreed to take on the task of leading a major national campaign fundraising organization. The Republican Attorneys General Association has raised $14 million so far this year to help elect Republicans as attorney general.

File photo. Attorney General Leslie Rutledge (R).
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Arkansas' attorney general's office has rejected language proposed for a 2018 ballot issue, saying the attempt to legalize marijuana is too ambiguous to make sense.

In a letter dated Friday but released Monday, the attorney general's office expressed concerns about a provision that allowed a grower to have 25 mature plants and 25 non-mature plants. If one of the 25 non-mature plants matures, giving a grower 26 mature plants, what should happen next?

Frank Scott, Jr.
frankscottjr.com

Banker Frank Scott, Jr. is considering entering the Little Rock mayoral race. The life-long Little Rock resident said on Tuesday he’s exploring a 2018 bid. His interest follows announcements by state Representative Warwick Sabin and Little Rock Mayor Mark Stodola. 

Scott says facilitating economic development through infrastructure improvement is a top priority. The former State Highway Commissioner is in favor of one such project – the widening of Interstate 30 through downtown – that has met opposition in public comments to the regional transportation planning agency Metroplan.

Mike Nelson (far left) sports an eye patch during a town hall meeting.
Talk Business and Politics

One of two Democrats seeking the nomination to run for the U.S. House seat representing east Arkansas's 1st District is bowing out of the race due to an undisclosed pending legal issue. Mike Nelson, an Arkansas County farmer, had already been busy attending a range of forums and civic clubs. 

The Arkansas Supreme Court has rejected an effort to make it easier to challenge proposed constitutional amendments placed on the ballot by the Legislature.

Justices on Thursday rejected an attorney's request to change court rules to allow challenges to be filed directly with the state Supreme Court over proposed amendments referred to voters by the Legislature. The proposal would have also required the same standard on ballot measures initiated by voters to be used on legislatively referred ones.

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