Gov.-elect Sarah Huckabee Sanders reported $2.9 million in remaining campaign funds from her successful gubernatorial campaign as of Dec. 30 in her latest campaign finance report.
The report shows the Republican governor-elect raised a total of $9.8 million and spent $6.8 million through Dec. 30 for the Nov. 8 general election, leaving a balance of $2,936,131.70 on Dec. 30. She didn't report receiving any campaign contributions after Nov. 8 in that report through Dec. 30. State law bars candidates from accepting contributions for the 2022 election cycle after the election, unless the contributions are for retiring campaign debt.
After she reported raising and spending $13.1 million in the May 24 primary campaign, Sanders transferred $4.2 million from the primary election campaign to her general election campaign.
In November, Sanders announced she would move more than $2.5 million from her 2022 campaign to her 2026 re-election effort, and her campaign manager Chris Caldwell would be a senior adviser to her reelection. Act 737 of 2021 allows candidates to maintain remaining campaign funds after an election and use them to run for election or reelection.
"Governor-elect Sanders has been focused on transition and forming her cabinet and has not had any fundraisers since the election," Sanders spokesman Judd Deere said Thursday.
Sanders' fundraising and spending levels in the 2022 election cycle are a record for a gubernatorial candidate in Arkansas.
Her national profile as White House press secretary for President Donald Trump coupled with Trump's endorsement and the continued national presence of her father, former Gov. Mike Huckabee, who ran for president in 2008 and 2016, helped bolster her fundraising, political experts and donors have said.
In contrast, unsuccessful Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris Jones reported he raised $2.087 million and spent $2.082 million through Dec. 30 for the general election and had $48,523.92 in campaign debt as of Dec. 30.
The debt includes $25,088.02 to Invictus Strategy Group of Arlington, Va., for fundraising services; $12,019.99 to Capitol Compliance Associates of Washington, D.C., for compliance services; $11,220.91 to Bumperactive of Austin, Texas, for campaign merchandise; and $195 to the Elias Law Group of Washington, D.C., for legal services, according to his report.
The debts will paid off soon, Jones campaign manager Rhonna-Rose Akama-Makia said Wednesday.
After Jones reported raising and spending $1.9 million in the primary campaign, he transferred $69,431 from the primary election campaign to his general election campaign.
Unsuccessful Libertarian gubernatorial candidate Ricky Dale Harrington of Pine Bluff reported raising a total of $35,121.72 and spending $32,172.74 through Dec. 30, leaving a balance of $2,948.98.
Sanders isn't the only candidate for a statewide constitutional office with a large amount of remaining campaign funds that may be maintained after an election and used to run for election or reelection under Act 737 of 2021.
Attorney General-elect Tim Griffin of Little Rock, the state's current Republican lieutenant governor, reported raising $1.6 million and spending $884,999.02 through Dec. 30 on his general election campaign, leaving a balance of $797,839.18. He didn't report receiving any contributions after Nov. 8 in the report through Dec. 30.
Griffin said Thursday he hasn't held any fundraisers for the 2026 election since the Nov. 8 election because "I have been focused on my transition to the office of attorney general."
His unsuccessful Democratic opponent, Jesse Gibson of Little Rock, reported raising $440,573.16, loaning his campaign $53,500 and spending $494,069.05 for the primary and general election campaigns through Dec. 30, leaving a campaign debt of $53,500.
Gibson's campaign debt is comprised of loans that he made to his campaign, according to his report.
Lt. Gov.-elect Leslie Rutledge of Maumelle, the state's current Republican attorney general, reported raising $622,329.26 and spending $302,436.01 for the general election through Dec. 30, leaving $319,983.25 in campaign funds. She didn't report receiving contributions after Nov. 8 in the report through Dec. 30.
"Lt. Governor-elect Rutledge has not accepted any donations since November 8th," said Rutledge campaign manager Sandy Hall.
Rutledge's unsuccessful Democratic opponent, Kelly Krout of Lowell, reported raising $275,095.44, loaning her campaign $100 and spending $268,222.60 for the primary and general election through Dec. 30.
She reported a campaign debt of $100, and that debt is her $100 loan to her campaign.
Unsuccessful Libertarian lieutenant governor candidate Frank Gilbert of Little Rock reported raising $3,229.17 and spending $921.39, leaving a balance of $2,307.78 as of Dec. 30.
Both state Supreme Court Justice Robin Wynne of Little Rock and his unsuccessful opponent, District Judge Chris Carnahan of Conway, reported campaign debts as of Dec. 30.
Wynne reported raising a total of $135,877.76, loaning his campaign $10,000 and spending $145,877.76 through Dec. 30, leaving campaign debt of $10,000. The campaign debt is his $10,000 loan to his campaign, according to his report.
Carnahan reported raising a total of $202,242.72, loaning his campaign $26,798.07 and spending $229,719.44 through Dec. 30, leaving a campaign debt of $26,798.07. The campaign debt is his $26,798.07 in loans to his campaign, according to his report.
Act 737 of 2021 defined "remaining campaign funds" as any balance of campaign funds over expenses incurred as of the day of the election, except for any funds used to repay loans made by the candidate from his personal funds to the campaign or to repay loans made by financial institutions to the candidate and applied to the campaign.
State law previously required a candidate within 30 days following the end of the month in which an election is held to turn over surplus campaign funds to either the state treasurer for the benefit of general revenue fund account of the state apportionment fund; a political party or a political party caucus of the General Assembly, the Senate or the House; a nonprofit organization that is exempt from taxation under Section 501 (c) (3) of the Internal Revenue Code; cities of the first class, cities of the second class or incorporated towns; or the contributors to the candidate's campaign.
Act 737 of 2021 states a candidate "may" turn over campaign funds to these entities.
Act 254 of 2021 repealed a ban on candidates for public office from soliciting or accepting campaign contributions more than two years before an election at which the candidate seeks nomination or election unless they are seeking contributions to retire a previous campaign debt. The law was enacted after U.S. District Judge James Moody Jr. in May 2020 issued a permanent injunction to replace his earlier temporary order declaring unconstitutional a state law prohibiting candidates for state office from accepting campaign contributions more than two years before elections.
At issue was the constitutionality of Arkansas Code 7-6-203(e), which was adopted by voters in 1996 as part of a package of amendments to campaign-finance laws. The amendments were an effort to combat corruption.
Plaintiff Peggy Jones complained the law infringed on her right of political expression by preventing her from donating money in 2019 to people she wanted to support in the 2022 election cycle. At the judge's request for more specifics, she named one of those people as Sen. Mark Johnson, R-Ferndale, who Jones said had told her he planned to run again in 2022. She said she had supported him in 2018 as well.