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Sanders: $4.8M raised in 1st quarter

Two-thirds from out of state, far outpaces rival Rutledge by Frank E. Lockwood | April 16, 2021 at 6:59 a.m.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders poses for a photograph in front of a bulletin board with her children's artwork in her office in the West Wing of the White House, Thursday, Sept. 14, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Republican gubernatorial candidate Sarah Huckabee Sanders raised more than $4.8 million during the first quarter of the year, her campaign announced Thursday.

Despite not entering the race until late January, Sanders outraised her Republican primary opponent, Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, nearly 25-to-1 during that 90-day period.

Nationwide, Sanders received money from 34,700 donors. The campaign said it had cash on hand of about $3.9 million as of March 31.

More than two-thirds of Sanders' first-quarter money came from out of state. Roughly four out of every five contributors live outside Arkansas.

Republican Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, first elected in 2014, is prohibited by term limits from seeking a third term.

In a written statement, Sanders highlighted her in-state giving, noting that it had topped $1.5 million.

"I am grateful for the generous support of so many Arkansans -- in 60 days we held over 50 events in Arkansas and received more than 6,500 donations across all 75 counties of the state. Our message of limiting government, and advancing education and opportunity is clearly resonating," she said.

Promising to challenge "the radical left," Sanders said, "I will be on the front line of the fight for freedom and am encouraged to have so many friends across our state and country standing with us."

Former President Donald Trump had urged Sanders, the daughter of former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, to enter the 2022 race.

Trump formally endorsed his former spokeswoman in January and has attended two of her Mar-a-Lago fundraisers, one in March and another this month.

Rutledge has raised more than $1.2 million since entering the race July 1, including $197,993 during the first three months of the year, according to campaign contribution and expenditure reports filed Thursday.

Her cash on hand was nearly $1.06 million.

"I am always humbled by the continued financial support from voters all across the state; however, no amount of money can replace the experience, judgment, and proven record I have gained over the past six and half years making decisions on behalf of three million plus Arkansans every day," Rutledge said in a written statement.

Stating that more than 80% of her money had been donated by Arkansans, Rutledge said, "I remain committed to making Arkansas first and will always be more concerned about what is happening in Fort Smith, Jacksonville, Jonesboro and Pine Bluff rather than in New York and Florida."

Arkansas Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin's gubernatorial campaign raised $40,645 between Jan. 1 and Feb. 8, the day he dropped out of the race. Despite raising more than $1.7 million overall, Griffin decided not to challenge Sanders, opting to run, instead, for attorney general.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate James "Rus" Russell of Little Rock reported contributions of $2,520 and lent his campaign another $1,000. The campaign had $1,913 left as of March 31.

"I'm not looking to try to raise money," Russell said Thursday.

"I've put my efforts and my energy into being in the public eye in Arkansas and trying to help out at events and showing up at community cleanups," he said.

"[It] doesn't leave a lot of time for high-dollar fundraisers out of state like they've been doing. For me, it's a matter of where the priorities are," he said.

Democrat Supha Xayprasith-Mays, who entered the race March 26, won't be filing a report until the second quarter, she said through an intermediary.

In the attorney general's race, Griffin raised $104,742 on top of the $40,645 in donations to his abortive run for governor, giving him a total for the quarter of $145,387. He finished the quarter with a cash balance of nearly $1.74 million.

"I am humbled and honored by the outpouring of support for our campaign for attorney general," Griffin said in a written statement. "Arkansans want a bold decisive conservative who will fight federal overreach, stand with law enforcement and crack down on criminals."

Griffin's Republican primary opponent, former state Fair Housing Commission Executive Director Leon Jones Jr., did not enter the race until after the first quarter had ended.

Attorney Jason Davis of Little Rock is seeking the Democratic nomination for attorney general. He has lent his campaign $792.25 and has no contributions, according to his filing with the secretary of state's office.

"We started taking donations on April 1 of this year and I am humbled by the support and encouragement we have received to date," he said in a text message. "I look forward to formally announcing my candidacy for Attorney General later this month and taking my vision of an Attorney General's office focused on the needs of Arkansans to the people of this state."

In the race for the Republican nomination for lieutenant governor, Arkansas Surgeon General Greg Bledsoe of Little Rock reported raising $100,445 and had a balance of $95,310 at the end of the quarter.

Another Republican candidate for lieutenant governor, Sen. Jason Rapert of Conway, did not accept any donations during the quarter, citing state Senate rules. He finished the quarter with cash on hand of $14,135. While unable to accept donations while the Legislature is in session, Rapert said he has received pledges of $127,125 from supporters.

Treasurer Dennis Milligan, a Republican running for state auditor, reported receiving donations of $16,200 for the quarter. He had $16,135 cash on hand. Milligan is term limited as treasurer.

Sen. Mat Pitsch, R-Fort Smith, reported raising nothing during the quarter for his campaign for state treasurer. He had cash on hand of $9,131.

Secretary of State John Thurston, a Republican incumbent, raised $1,500 during the quarter. He finished with cash on hand of $15,529.

Tommy Land, the incumbent Republican land commissioner, raised $19,412 and had cash on hand of $19,466.

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