President Donald Trump submitted formal paperwork Friday to appear on the state's 2020 ballot, and he called upon his former press secretary, Arkansas native Sarah Huckabee Sanders, to help.
"The biggest thing that we want to do is convey our strong support for the president," said Sanders, who, along with Republican Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, presented state Republican Party Chairman Doyle Webb with a $25,000 check for the filing fee and paperwork bearing what Sanders called Trump's "big, bold, beautiful signature." They met at state party headquarters, and then the required forms were delivered to the secretary of state's staff at the Capitol.
Trump was among the 22 candidates to file Friday, the second-to-last day of Arkansas' candidate sign-up period. Filing ends at noon Tuesday. On Monday, state offices are closed in observance of Veterans Day.
Trump and Roque "Rocky" De La Fuente -- who filed Thursday -- are the only candidates so far to enter Arkansas' GOP primary. The Republican and Democratic primaries will be March 3.
Also filing Friday were six more Democratic presidential candidates hoping to be the one to take on Trump in the Nov. 3 general election. They were: Steve Bullock, Cory Booker, Tom Steyer, Marianne Williamson, Michael Bennet and Joe Sestak. A total of 14 Democrats have signed up for that party's presidential primary in Arkansas.
One potential presidential campaign absent from the list Friday was that of former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who reportedly was considering a last-minute entrance into the Democratic primary fight.
Arkansas, along with Alabama, has one of the earliest filing deadlines in the nation for the presidential race. On Thursday, attorneys with the Washington, D.C., firm Venable LLP reached out to the Democratic Party of Arkansas about filing for a candidate whom the attorneys declined to name, according to state party Chairman Michael John Gray. Later Thursday, the news broke that Bloomberg was considering filing in Alabama, and on Friday, CNN reported that he did.
"We're assuming it was him," Gray said of the outreach effort. "I guess we'll know by noon Tuesday."
At the state level, Barbara Webb became the second candidate to formally file for the Arkansas Supreme Court seat -- associate justice, Position 4 -- that is up for election in 2020. Webb, the chief administrative law judge at the Workers' Compensation Commission, is married to Doyle Webb, the Republican Party chairman.
Judicial races are nonpartisan. The general election of judicial races is on the same date as the party primaries -- March 3.
Barbara Webb joins Pulaski County Circuit Judge Morgan "Chip" Welch in the race. The current officeholder, Justice Josephine "Jo" Hart, has not yet said if she will run for reelection.
"It's a lifelong dream of mine," Barbara Webb said. "I feel like I'm the person with the right experience at the right time, and I can offer the integrity to the court."
She declined to offer her thoughts on Welch.
When Welch filed Tuesday, he referred to Barbara Webb as a "party politician." She responded at the time by saying that Welch is "the only person inserting partisan politics into this race."
Doyle Webb was on hand for his wife's filing at the Capitol. He then headed down Sixth Street to party headquarters, where he welcomed Sanders and Rutledge for a news conference on Trump's filing.
Asked if Trump will make a stop in Arkansas for one of his signature rallies, the trio said they hope he will -- even if his campaign faces a tougher fight in other states.
"I'm concerned that we don't have a facility big enough," Webb joked. In 2016, while running for the Republican nomination, Trump held a rally at Barton Coliseum on the Arkansas State Fairgrounds.
Sanders, who worked at the White House from January 2017 until June of this year, also responded to a new book written anonymously by a former colleague in the administration. Sanders called the author "cowardly" for not attaching a name to criticisms of the president.
According to The New York Times, the book, A Warning, argues that Trump lacks the temperament to be a successful president and should not be reelected.
Sanders said she still backs the president since her return to Arkansas.
"I think the president has a great temperament, and I think that's why he's been so successful," Sanders said. "[The author] may want to argue and say he's not fit, but he has delivered on everything he came in to do."
Another presidential hopeful who filed Friday also made use of his Arkansas connections.
Bennet, a U.S. senator from Colorado, filed through a local proxy late in the afternoon. His wife, Marianna native Susan Daggett, spoke by phone to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, saying that her husband's "politics align pretty well with Arkansas Democrats."
Bennet has "sensitivity to issues that affect small towns, small communities," Daggett said.
The Bennet campaign will hold a fundraiser next week in Memphis with former U.S. Sen. Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas. Bennet visited Marianna over the Fourth of July weekend, his wife said.
Friday ended without any Democrats filings in one of Arkansas' most anticipated races: the 2nd Congressional District in central Arkansas.
The Republican incumbent, U.S. Rep. French Hill of Little Rock, filed for reelection earlier this week. The Democratic Party of Arkansas and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee have spent the week scouting candidates to file for that post.
The party expects to have a candidate lined up by the last day of filing Tuesday, Gray said.
Sarah Huckabee Sanders (right) and Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge visit Republican Party headquarters in Little Rock after submitting paperwork on Friday to put President Donald Trump’s name on the 2020 ballot in the state.
A Section on 11/09/2019