A Pine Bluff missionary said Monday he will seek the Libertarian nomination to challenge U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., in 2020.
Ricky Dale Harrington Jr., 34, is the only announced Senate candidate from the Libertarian Party of Arkansas, said party chairman Michael Pakko.
Democrat Josh Mahony is also running for the seat.
Harrington, in a campaign announcement, said he would like to address criminal justice and health care. He said that he had recently been a Christian missionary in China.
"I spent two years entrenched in communism while living abroad in China," Harrington said in the campaign release. "Every day I witnessed first-hand the devastating effects of lack of rights and freedoms that we hold so dear here in America. I was inspired to join the fight in saving our Republic. I have watched, as many of you have, the unconstitutional laws being passed, the BIG government bureaucrats seeking to insulate their power at the expense of our personal freedoms. I say NO MORE!"
The party filing period will be from noon Nov. 4 until noon Nov. 12. Next year's primary will be March 3, and the general election will be Nov. 3.
While Libertarians running for office must file in November, Pakko said the party doesn't have to submit its nominated candidates until next year's primary. Primary elections are for the Democratic and Republican parties.
The state Libertarian Party will meet for a "special nominating convention" in Little Rock on Oct. 26 to nominate candidates; it will confirm those candidates at its February convention. Pakko said that even if a certain office only has one candidate intending to run, the convention must still vote with "none of the above" as an option.
As it stands, the party has qualified to have candidates on the November 2020 ballot.
However, Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge has appealed a federal judge's ruling that blocked a 2019 state law that would've made it harder for third parties to gain ballot access. The ruling came in a lawsuit filed by the state Libertarian Party.
That law, Act 164 of 2019, required third parties to gather signatures from at least 3% of the number of registered voters that voted in the preceding gubernatorial election -- 26,746 this election cycle.
Since 2007, third parties had been required to gather 10,000 valid signatures for ballot access, which is the number required of independent candidates who qualify for the ballot by petition.
Earlier this year, the state Libertarian Party filed about 18,700 signatures, and the Arkansas secretary of state's office verified 12,749.
Secretary of State John Thurston informed Pakko in a July letter that the signatures were sufficient because Act 164 was under a federal preliminary injunction that the state has appealed.
"If we prevail on that appeal, then the court order preliminarily enjoining our office from complying with Arkansas law will no longer have any effect," Thurston, a Republican, wrote. "In that event, we will be required to comply with Arkansas law as written and to not recognize the Libertarian Party of Arkansas as a new political party."
The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will hear arguments in December on whether the 2019 law should be blocked. If the preliminary injunction is lifted, it would be at least a month after the filing deadline.
A Thurston spokesman couldn't be reached by phone or email on Monday about whether the office would kick the Libertarians off the ballot after the filing deadline had passed.
"The wheels of justice are grinding slowly," Pakko said Monday. "But at this point, we're operating under the assumption that we're on the ballot."
Harrington said he testified against the bill that became Act 164 earlier this year, and that law prompted him to make his first run at office.
Harrington, a Texas native, first came to Arkansas to attend Harding University. He settled in Pine Bluff after returning from China. He is a program specialist at Cummins Unit for the Arkansas Department of Corrections.
Harrington said that national politics have become too divisive, which he hopes to help change.
"I'm just a simple guy trying to make a difference," he said.
Metro on 10/15/2019
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