LITTLE ROCK — The filing period for Arkansas' political offices opens Monday with races for the U.S. Senate and governor at the top of the ticket.
Each of the state's seven constitutional offices will on the ballot this year, along with all 100 House seats, half the state Senate and Arkansas' four U.S. House seats.
The U.S. Senate contest is expected to draw incumbent Democrat Mark Pryor and Republican Rep. Tom Cotton, who have been airing commercials for months.
Expected to enter the governor's race are former congressmen Mike Ross, a Democrat, and Asa Hutchinson, a Republican, and Republican businessman Curtis Coleman. Advertising in that race, too, ramped up well before the filing period.
Alex Reed, spokesman for Secretary of State Mark Martin, said the office expects about 20 filings for Arkansas' constitutional offices and about a dozen or so for Congress, though he said it's difficult to tell for sure.
"Every year during the filing period, there are always surprises with some people," he said.
Doyle Webb, chairman of Arkansas' Republican Party, said he expects previously announced GOP candidates to file the required paperwork.
"All of these candidates have been traveling across the state, speaking to groups of citizens and have been campaigning for months," he said. "We're looking forward to an exciting primary."
For the Arkansas Democratic Party, a party member has lined up for five of the state's constitutional offices, according to chairman Vince Insalaco, all but state treasurer and land commissioner. He said the party would prefer to not have a contested primary.
"We have felt very strongly the divisive primaries are not healthy for the Democratic Party," he said. "We would rather focus on winning the general election than having to fight within ourselves in a divisive primary."
The Arkansas Green Party is also expected to have candidates file Monday, party treasurer Mark Jenkins said. So far, the party has planned candidates for governor and the U.S. Senate, he said.
And for the state's Libertarian Party, contenders will likely make their official entry throughout the week, according to party President Jessica Paxton. She said in a statement that the party should have candidates for governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state and state auditor. The party also should have candidates for all four U.S. congressional district seats and for a Senate office, she said.
Independent candidates qualify through a separate petition process.
The filing period closes March 3 and the primary is scheduled for May 20 with the general election set for Nov. 4.
In the 2012 election, Republicans took control of the Legislature for the first time since Reconstruction and also won all four U.S. House seats. In 2010, the GOP won a U.S. Senate seat from Democrats and also captured most of the state's constitutional offices.
Entering this year's elections, Republicans hold a 22-13 majority in the state Senate and a 51-48 edge over Democrats in the House, with one Green Party member. Among state senators not facing re-election this year, 11 are Republicans and six are Democrats.