Ricky Dale Harrington Jr. of Pine Bluff, a Libertarian who lost his bid for the U.S. Senate in November, said he is running for governor in 2022 and helping the party gather signatures of registered Arkansas voters in an attempt to qualify the party for the ballot.
Libertarian Party of Arkansas Chairman Michael Pakko of Little Rock and Harrington said the party started working to collect the required 10,000 signatures on April 1. They said the party aims to collect at least that many signatures to submit to the secretary of state's office by the end of June.
Thus far, Pakko said Friday, Libertarians have collected roughly 3,000 signatures and that Harrington's name recognition helps the effort.
Harrington's loss to Republican U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton of Little Rock represented a high-water mark for the Libertarian cause in Arkansas and across the nation.
Harrington collected 33.5% of the vote as Cotton garnered 66.5%. They were the only candidates because the Democratic Party's candidate, Josh Mahony of Fayetteville, dropped out of the race hours after the filing deadline.
Pakko said the Libertarian Party is attempting to qualify for the ballot for the sixth time in Arkansas in 2022, after doing so successfully every two years, from 2012-20.
In July 2019, U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker blocked the enforcement of Arkansas laws that required new political parties to obtain significantly more signatures than they had been required to submit in the previous decade for candidates to get on the ballot. Baker's order, requested by Libertarians, prohibited Republican Secretary of State John Thurston from enforcing the challenged laws.
In June 2020, the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals at St. Louis affirmed Baker's ruling.
The Libertarians had sued Thurston in March 2019, alleging that the state laws unconstitutionally increased the number of valid signatures that new political parties must collect on petitions from 10,000 to 3% of the total votes cast for governor in the previous general election. That would have required the party to obtain 26,746 valid signatures to get on the 2020 ballot
RUN FOR GOVERNOR
On April 23, Harrington tweeted, "I am running for Governor of Arkansas and I need your help to get on the ballot.
"We are going to make some changes to the way business is done in Arkansas and let #ThePeopleRule#...," he tweeted.
Harrington, 35, is a former prison chaplain. He said he is the process of becoming a pastor at a church.
He said his priorities as governor would be in line with the people's priorities and would include improving education and a criminal justice overhaul.
Pakko said Harrington is the only Libertarian candidate for governor that he is aware of at this point, and the party won't determine its gubernatorial nominee until after the candidate filing deadline in February.
Thus far, Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge of Maumelle and Sarah Huckabee Sanders of Little Rock are the announced Republican candidates for governor in 2022.
Supha Xayprasith-Mays of Little Rock and James "Rus" Russell of Little Rock are the announced Democratic candidates for governor in 2022.
State Sen. Jim Hendren, an independent from Sulphur Springs who left the Republican Party in February, said Friday that he's keeping open the option of running for governor in 2022. He said his focus is now on the Common Ground group that he formed in February.
He said he will have polling done and then make a decision about whether there's a realistic possibility for an independent bid for governor in 2022.
Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who is Hendren's uncle, has been governor since 2015 and is barred from seeking reelection under the state's term limits law.