Arkansas Politics

Talk Business & Politics

Two Democrats announced their candidacies for office on Thursday.

Kelly Krout of Lowell said she would vie for the Democratic nomination for Arkansas Lt. Governor. Krout, a mother of seven kids and a children’s book author, said she’s entering the race to advocate for families and kids.

“I’m a lifelong Arkansan, and my family has lived in Northwest Arkansas for 17 years. My experience as a foster mom has shown me the challenges that so many in Arkansas face. I want our state to be a safe place for all Arkansas families and children,” Krout said.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders speaking to a crowd of supporters on Sept. 6 in Benton.
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Nine months after announcing her candidacy for Arkansas governor through a produced video, Sarah Huckabee Sanders is now taking her campaign to the people. This Labor Day weekend she began a series of 15 appearances around the state.

On Monday evening, the former White House press secretary spoke to an enthusiastic crowd at a rally in Benton. Sanders was introduced by her father, former Gov. Mike Huckabee.

State Rep. Mark Lowery, R-Maumelle, addresses reporters at the Arkansas State Capitol on Tuesday.
Daniel Breen / KUAR News

A state lawmaker says he’s asking the Arkansas Department of Education to instruct teachers and schools they could face legal repercussions for teaching critical race theory.

Republican  Rep. Mark Lowery of Maumelle says he’s asked Education Secretary Johnny Key to make districts aware of a recent opinion by Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge that says teaching critical race theory is unconstitutional.

Arkansas House

An Arkansas House committee failed to advance two bills that would have amended the state’s current ban on mask mandates, likely ending the chance of passing before the end of the special session. By a series of voice votes Thursday, members of the House Public Health, Welfare and Labor did not pass either House Bill 1003 or House Bill 1004. Both would have given school boards the authority to require the wearing of masks.

Arkansas House

A bill that would allow Arkansas school districts to implement mask mandates if they meet a COVID-19 case threshold is being reworked to address the concerns of some lawmakers. Members of the House Public Health, Welfare and Labor Committee spent just under three hours Wednesday discussing and listening to public comments on the proposed legislation.

Arkansas State Supreme Court Justice Testifies In Bribery Trial Of Former Lawmaker

Jul 28, 2021
File photo of Arkansas Supreme Court Justice Rhonda Wood swearing in a witness during a hearing on Dec. 19, 2015.

Arkansas Supreme Court Justice Rhonda Wood testified Tuesday that she never talked with former Circuit Judge Michael Maggio about his decision to alter a jury’s award in a nursing home negligence case in 2013 — a ruling that led to Maggio’s imprisonment and to federal bribery charges against former lobbyist Gilbert Baker.

Wood’s testimony for the prosecution came near day’s end at Baker’s trial in U.S. District Court in Little Rock. She is to continue testifying Wednesday.

Election Voters Voting
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Two town hall meetings are being planned for next month featuring candidates vying for the Democratic and Republican nominations for Arkansas Governor. 

KATV and Talk Business & Politics will host the meetings focused on education. The GOP education town hall will be Monday, August 23 from 7-8 p.m. Attorney General Leslie Rutledge will be the only participant in the forum as former White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the other announced Republican for governor, declined to participate in this forum.

Opening Statements Delivered In Corruption Trial Of Former Arkansas Sen. Gilbert Baker

Jul 27, 2021
Arkansas Nonprofit News Network

The long-awaited bribery trial of former state Sen. Gilbert Baker, a former Republican lobbyist from Conway, began Monday with news that a juror had contracted the coronavirus.

The unidentified juror had been present for jury selection Friday and contacted the court Sunday night to advise of the diagnosis.

Arkansas Capitol
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

A group of Democratic lawmakers in Arkansas, which has the nation’s highest COVID-19 rate, urged the governor and Republicans who control the Legislature on Thursday to lift the state’s ban on schools and government entities requiring people to wear masks.

The lawmakers from Little Rock and surrounding Pulaski County asked Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson to call a special session of the Legislature or for its GOP leaders to reconvene it themselves to consider the repeal.

Nick Cartwright formally announced his candidacy as a Democrat late Wednesday for Arkansas' 2nd congressional seat currently held by Republican U.S. Rep. French Hill.
Talk Business & Politics

Former Rose Bud City Councilman Nick Cartwright announced his campaign Thursday for the Democratic nomination for the Second District Congressional seat.

U.S. Rep. French Hill, R-Little Rock, currently holds the seat and is seeking a fifth term. No other Democrats have announced for the race.

“I’m running to fight for regular, everyday Arkansans who have been left out of our politics for far too long. The people of the 2nd District deserve a representative from our communities willing to offer real, bold solutions to our biggest problems.”

Sarah Huckabee Sanders

Former White House press secretary Sarah Sanders’ campaign on Thursday said she has raised another $4.2 million for her bid for Arkansas governor.

Sanders’ campaign said the latest figures over the past three months mean she has raised $9 million total since launching her bid in January for the state’s top office. Sanders is running against Attorney General Leslie Rutledge for the Republican Party’s nomination.

The majority of Sanders’ contributions so far have come from out of state, while more than $3 million has come from nearly 9,000 Arkansas donors, her campaign said.

The University of Arkansas on Thursday said it has asked a former Razorback challenging U.S. Sen. John Boozman to change his ads over their unauthorized use of the school’s trademarks.

The school made the request after Jake Bequette launched his bid for the Republican Senate nomination with an online video touting his background playing for the Razorbacks and for the New England Patriots in the NFL. Boozman, a Republican, has held the seat since 2011.

Jake Bequette, an Army veteran and former standout Razorback defensive lineman who played in the NFL, announced Monday that he will challenge U.S. Senator John Boozman, R-Ark., in the GOP primary.

Bequette, 32, made his announcement on Fox and Friends Monday morning and through a subsequent press release and announcement video. Couching himself as a “conservative outsider” running against “career politicians,” Bequette outlined some of his strong positions.

Daniel Breen / KUAR News

A Democrat has announced his bid to serve as Arkansas' next Secretary of State. Former Pulaski County Election Commissioner Josh Price announced his bid to unseat one-term Republican incumbent John Thurston at an event in Little Rock on Wednesday.

Price touted his experience and accomplishments as a local elections official that he says would serve him well in the new position.

election vote
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Dan Whitfield announced Wednesday he would seek the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate, while Rep. Mark Lowery, R-Maumelle, said he would challenge incumbent Republican Secretary of State John Thurston.

Whitfield, a 34-year old information systems intern with J.B. Hunt, made his announcement in Fayetteville. He ran in 2020 as an independent to challenge U.S. Senator Tom Cotton, R-Ark., who only had a Libertarian challenger. Whitfield did not qualify for the ballot through the signature process in 2020.

Daniel Breen / KUAR News

Officials with the state Libertarian Party on Monday delivered signatures to the Arkansas Secretary of State’s office to begin the process of fielding candidates for 2022.

State Libertarian Party Chair Michael Pakko says the party has turned in over 14,000 signatures to the Secretary of State’s office, officially designating them as a political party.

Manhattan Institute

Arkansas' junior U.S. senator is pushing back against proposed federal legislation that would eliminate the sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine offenses, a position opposite of the state’s governor.

Speaking Friday during an event held by the conservative think tank, the Manhattan Institute, Sen. Tom Cotton spoke on the hearing concerning the EQUAL Act, which would reduce the harsher sentences for crack cocaine as opposed to the current lesser sentences for powdered cocaine. Cotton said his proposal legislation concerning sentence disparities is different. 

Anthony Bland formally announced his candidacy for governor of Arkansas Wednesday in Hot Springs.
KATV-Channel 7

Dr. Anthony Bland fell short in his 2018 attempt to win the lieutenant governor’s race in Arkansas, but that did not deter the Democrat from Little Rock from setting his sights on the state’s top job.

Bland, 43, told Talk Business & Politics he intends to seek the Democratic nomination for governor during the 2022 election cycle. He formally launched his campaign Wednesday in Hot Springs.

“I’ve been advocating for change in this state for a long time,” he said.

Arkansas’ Republican governor is voicing his support for federal legislation addressing the disparity in sentencing for crimes related to cocaine and crack cocaine.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson testified Tuesday in front of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, in support of a proposed bill known as the EQUAL Act, sponsored by Sen. Cory Booker, D-NJ.

Little Rock residents will officially have the chance to pass or fail a 1% sales and use tax in September.

Over a series of votes, the Little Rock Board of Directors on Tuesday approved both calling a special election on Sept. 14, and for the sales tax to be enacted by the City of Little Rock, if passed by voters. According to the resolution regarding the election itself, if the public does pass the sales tax, collection of it would begin on Jan. 1, 2022.

Daniel Breen / KUAR News

Another Democrat has officially entered the race for governor of Arkansas.

Chris Jones, a seventh-generation Arkansan who previously served as executive director of the Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub, announced his bid for the 2022  election Tuesday. Speaking in his hometown of Pine Bluff, Jones said his experience in that job exposed him to many of the challenges facing Arkansans.

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge (left) and former White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders are vying for the Republican nomination for governor.
Talk Business & Politics

Eleven months until they may square off in a GOP primary for Arkansas Governor, Sarah Huckabee Sanders is viewed more favorably by voters than Attorney General Leslie Rutledge.

A new Talk Business & Politics-Hendrix College Poll of 535 statewide voters shows that Sanders is sitting with a 43.5-41.5% favorable-unfavorable rating, while Rutledge is viewed 31% favorably to 41% unfavorably.

Q: Do you have a favorable or unfavorable view of Sarah Huckabee Sanders?

43.5% Favorable
41.5% Unfavorable
15% Don’t Know

Arkansas Legislature
Sarah Kellogg / KUAR News

Controversial topics drowned out the typical bread-and-butter business of the legislative session, and that played out in public opinion.

A new Talk Business & Politics-Hendrix College Poll of 535 Arkansas voters finds the 93rd General Assembly with only a 32% approval rating, while 45% disapproved of its actions.

Q: Do you approve or disapprove of the job the Arkansas legislature is doing?

32% Approve
45% Disapprove
23% Don’t Know

Gov. Asa Hutchinson on this week's Talk Business & Politics.
Talk Business & Politics

A protracted pandemic, a contentious legislative session, and a contrarian stance against Trumpism may have taken a toll on Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s job approval rating with Arkansas voters.

According to a new Talk Business & Politics-Hendrix College Poll, Hutchinson – who is in his seventh year as governor – has a healthy job approval rating of 52-36%.

U.S. Sen. John Boozman (center) speaking alongside Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge and U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton on March 30, 2021 in Little Rock. A new Talk Business & Politics-Hendrix College poll gave the state's senior senator 30% approval among
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

President Joe Biden and U.S. Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., have varying job approval ratings in Arkansas, but for the most part, they are in line with historical polling trends.

A new Talk Business & Politics-Hendrix College Poll of 535 Arkansas voters shows Biden and Boozman with negative job approvals, although Boozman has a large undecided block on his performance. This poll was conducted May 26-31, 2021 and has a margin of error of +/- 5.5%.

Q: Do you approve or disapprove of the job President Joe Biden is doing?

Governor's Office

State employees in Arkansas will soon have the opportunity to earn a raise as a result of their work during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced Tuesday a 3% "performance or merit" bonus will be given to state agencies, that in turn will be distributed to their employees based on their work.

"This last year, our workforce has shown dedication, resilience and flexibility during this pandemic. It’s been circumstances that no workforce has been through in the last 100 years," Hutchinson said.

Arkansas PBS

The members of the state Board of Apportionment, who are responsible for redrawing Arkansas’ congressional districts, on Monday approved the hiring of a former state Supreme Court chief justice to serve as the redistricting coordinator.

The three-membered board, consisting of Gov. Asa Hutchinson, Attorney General Leslie Rutledge and Secretary of State John Thurston, motioned and then approved the hiring of Betty Dickey to serve in the position at a rate of $10,000 a month until the end of the redistricting process.

Governor's Office

The state committee in charge of allocating federal funding from the American Rescue Plan approved $150 million to go towards broadband efforts, with an additional $150 million to possibly be approved in a later meeting.

The Arkansas American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 Steering Committee met for the second time on Wednesday and spent over an hour discussing the $300 million request from the state’s Department of Commerce to go towards broadband expansion.

U.S. Rep. French Hill of Arkansas' 2nd congressional district, seen here in 2018, was one of 35 Republicans to join Democrats in voting to support creation of an independent commission to probe the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

A bill in Congress which would create an independent commission to investigate the violent insurrection at the U.S. Capitol in January is now in the hands of the Senate. A week ago, the House passed the bill with 35 Republicans joining Democrats to support the proposal.

But the future of the bill is unclear with Democrats needing the support of 10 Republicans to avoid a possible filibuster. GOP leadership is opposing an investigation.

Jess Gibson, as seen in a video announcing his candidacy, said Tuesday he will be running for Arkansas Attorney General.

The race for Arkansas Attorney General just added another candidate. Attorney Jesse Gibson announced Tuesday he would seek the Democratic nomination for the state’s top legal post.

Gibson will be challenging Democrat Jason Davis for the nomination. Lt. Governor Tim Griffin and Leon Jones have announced for the Republican nomination for the position. Current Attorney General Leslie Rutledge is term-limited and is running for Governor.

Gibson said consumer protection will be one of his biggest priorities in seeking the office.