An electoral hullabaloo -- as well as some customary red, white and blue bunting -- filled the rotunda of the state Capitol on Monday as 165 candidates and their supporters kicked off Arkansas' filing period for the 2020 elections.
In the first five hours of the six-day filing period, 141 candidates filed for president, Congress or the state Legislature. Most of them were Republicans and Democrats, with some Libertarians and independents.
Among the hopefuls who filed Monday were six Democratic candidates for U.S. president, most of whom had surrogates file on their behalf. Republican President Donald Trump is expected to file for reelection through a proxy later this week, party officials said.
U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton, a Republican, appeared in person to file for reelection. So did his Democratic opponent, Josh Mahony, as well as Libertarian Ricky Dale Harrington Jr. and independent Dan Whitfield.
Six candidates filed for the U.S. House, including U.S. Reps. French Hill and Rick Crawford, both Republicans.
All together, 125 candidates filed for the state Legislature.
Twenty-four judicial candidates filed in a two-hour window set aside later on the first day for those paying filing fees for the nonpartisan offices.
The Republican and Democratic primaries and the nonpartisan judicial election are March 3, 2020. The general election is Nov. 3, 2020.
The first day of Arkansas' filing period is historically the busiest, as candidates, other politicos and reporters flock to the second floor of the Capitol rotunda.
Secretary of State John Thurston rapped his wooden gavel at noon to begin the process, and within minutes state Rep. Ron McNair, R-Alpena, became the first candidate to complete the filing process.
"I just came down early so I could get filed and get home and get back to work," said McNair, adding that he is self-employed. "I need to be home working when I'm not down here working."
Judicial candidates started filing at 3 p.m., after much of the earlier crowds subsided. By the end of the day, the 24 who filed for various judgeships joined another 201 candidates who filed by signature during the early nonpartisan filing period in September.
Candidates who filed with either the Democratic or Republican parties first had to pay a filing fee -- or submit signatures -- with their respective party. Nonpartisan candidates on Monday paid a filing fee to the state.
The filing period for both party and nonpartisan offices will run until Nov. 12. Filing will not occur over the weekend or on Veterans Day.
While most of the candidates who filed the first day had previously announced their intentions, it also drew out some unexpected contenders.
About an hour after filing began, Allison Dougan of Conway signed an affidavit with the secretary of state's office stating that she is eligible to serve in the state House of Representatives, as part of her independent filing to run in House District 40. As she exited the line, however, she told reporters that she was 16 and would turn 18 by January 2021, when lawmakers take office. The Arkansas Constitution sets the minimum age for House members at 21.
Dougan said she was filing intentionally to prompt a legal challenge against Arkansas' age requirements for officeholders. Her father, David Dougan, also filed as an independent for the same seat as a backup plan, he said.
"Louisiana, Kansas, they all allow 18-year-olds to represent their districts," Dougan said. "I don't think Arkansas should be any different."
The other candidates to file in House District 40 on Monday included Maumelle Republican David Ray and Sherwood Republican Karyn Maynard. The House seat is held by departing state Rep. Doug House, R-North Little Rock.
State Rep. Laurie Rushing, R-Hot Springs, who has served in the House since 2015, said Monday that she decided not to seek reelection because she plans to attend law school and specialize in real estate law. Instead, Rushing's mother, Hot Springs Republican Lorna Nobles, filed to run in her place.
"I have a lot of people that support me and respect me and I feel like I will do a good job at this," said Nobles, owner of Trademark Real Estate Inc. Bismarck Democrat Joyce Schimenti also filed on Monday for the House District 26 seat.
In the presidential race, Fort Smith native Mosie Boyd filed for the Democratic primary contest. Boyd, a 50-year-old attorney, has not qualified for any of the Democratic debates but said she was running in Iowa and New Hampshire to encourage more women to get involved in presidential politics.
"I'm having a great time, I really love it," said Boyd, adding that she has visited Iowa five times in the past three months. "People up there are so nice."
Former state Rep. Clarke Tucker, D-Little Rock, plans to file for state Senate, but that isn't why he visited the filing area on Monday. Instead, Tucker was filing election paperwork for 2020 Democratic presidential candidate and South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg.
Tucker and Buttigieg are friends from their time attending Harvard College together.
"It's pretty cool to get to file for your friend for president of the United States," Tucker said.
Other presidential contenders who filed on Monday were Democrats Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Amy Klobuchar and Kamala Harris, all of whom filed through proxies.Gallery: First Day of Candidate Filing
COTTON DRAWS CROWD
Cotton, a U.S. senator since 2015, attracted spectators and others seeking selfies as he made his way through the filing line around 2 p.m.
Asked if he had asked Trump to stump for his reelection, Cotton said Republicans would have tougher battles than Arkansas in 2020.
"I told the president, we'd always be happy to have him in Arkansas, but I'm pretty confident that he's going to win the race in Arkansas," Cotton said. "So where most Arkansans would like to see him is for another four years in the White House."
Mahony, the Democrat running against Cotton, filed just before 1 p.m. Monday.
Mahony ran unsuccessfully against U.S. Rep. Steve Womack, R-Ark., for Arkansas' 3rd Congressional District in 2018. Mahony noted that the congressional seat had belonged to Republicans for more than four decades while the Senate seat only turned red in 2015.
The El Dorado native expressed optimism about his chances despite a sizable fundraising disadvantage. The key, he said, will be driving voter turnout.
"Arkansas is 50th in voter turnout," Mahony said. "I don't think we know what [color] state we are."
HILL SEEKS REELECTION
Hill, a Republican from Little Rock, was the first member of the delegation to file. No Democrats filed on Monday to oppose Hill in the 2nd Congressional District, which has been the most competitive of the state's congressional districts in recent elections.
"I've always faced an opponent that's articulate and been well backed by the Democratic Party in the state, and I don't know why that would be any different in this election," Hill said.
State Democratic Party Chairman Michael John Gray of Augusta said there are two or three people still talking about the possibility of taking on Hill.
"We have a week of filing," he said. "I anticipate that we'll have a candidate, if not more than one."
Other prominent incumbents who filed for reelection Monday include House Speaker Matthew Shepherd, R-El Dorado; Senate President Pro Tempore Jim Hendren, R-Sulphur Springs; Senate Majority Leader Bart Hester, R-Cave Springs; and House Majority Leader Marcus Richmond, R-Harvey.
Information for this article was contributed by Josh Snyder of Arkansas Online.
Candidates for state and federal offices line up Monday in the Capitol rotunda on the first day to file for the 2020 election. More photos are available at arkansasonline.com/115filingday/
A Section on 11/05/2019
Print Headline: 165 candidates file on 1st day at state Capitol; Conway girl, 16, creates stir