Former Gov. Asa Hutchinson, seeking nomination for president, among candidates filing to be on ballot in Arkansas

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Asa Hutchinson addresses the media at the Arkansas Capitol on Friday after filing paperwork to be on the ballot as a candidate for president in the Republican primary next year.
(Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Stephen Swofford)
Asa Hutchinson addresses the media at the Arkansas Capitol on Friday after filing paperwork to be on the ballot as a candidate for president in the Republican primary next year. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Stephen Swofford)


Former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson filed Friday to run as a Republican presidential candidate in Arkansas' primary election in 2024, and Republican U.S. Rep. Rick Crawford of Jonesboro filed to seek reelection.

Arkansas Supreme Court Justice Courtney Hudson also filed her paperwork Friday to run for Position 2 on the Arkansas Supreme Court in her bid to serve the final six years of the eight-year term for which the late Justice Robin Wynne was elected in 2022.

In addition, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie filed Friday as a Republican presidential candidate, and Stephen Lyons, a retired plumber from Maryland, and Marianne Williamson, a self-help author from New Hampshire, filed as Democratic presidential candidates in Arkansas' primary.

Twenty-two candidates for state and federal offices in Arkansas filed Friday to run in 2024.

Friday was the fifth day of the state's filing period that ends Tuesday. A complete list of filings can be found at candidates.arkansas.gov.

Arkansas will hold its primary on March 5, which also is called Super Tuesday. The runoff will be April 2, and the general election will be Nov. 5.

With his wife, Susan, at his side in the state Capitol, Hutchinson said it was "a historical moment in which someone from Arkansas, a former governor of Arkansas, is filing for president of the United States right here in the rotunda."

"Because of the unpredictability of this year, Arkansas is going to be a player in choosing the next president of the United States and ... you cannot win if you don't file," Hutchinson said at a news conference with several dozen people on hand, including friends and former staffers and Cabinet members.

"You can't win and have a chance if you are not on the ballot, and so I am looking forward to that aspect of the campaign that moves beyond the early states and gets into the Southern states, the Super Tuesday, and Arkansas is part of that," said Hutchinson, who served as governor from 2015 until early January of this year.

Other states holding their primary on March 5 include Alabama, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont and Virginia, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Hutchinson said he is running for president in part because the nation is at risk with a shaky economy "in which they printed too much money in Washington, D.C."

"That creates challenges for our families from inflation and interest rates," he said.

Another reason, he said, is that "we too often have shown weakness when we have to show strength in terms of our foreign policy [and] in terms of the role that the United States plays."

The nation also is at risk without a secure border, he said.

Hutchinson -- a former federal Department of Homeland Security undersecretary, Drug Enforcement Administration administrator, 3rd District congressman and U.S. attorney -- said he has the skill set and experience needed to address the nation's many challenges that range from the fentanyl crisis to border security to balancing the federal budget to national security issues.

"It is also important that we have a leader both of our country and our party that brings integrity and character to the office of the president of the United States," Hutchinson said. "I am in this race because I believe that we as a party and a country have gotten off course."

Hutchinson has struggled to build momentum during his run for the White House. He qualified for the first Republican presidential debate in August but failed to make the second debate stage in September and the third debate stage on Wednesday.

Hutchinson said, "We have got a candidate, [former President] Donald Trump, who hasn't even said he will support the nominee of the party.

"We don't know whether he is going to be convicted next year or not," he said. "We don't know whether he is going to be disqualified under the 14th Amendment or not. This is an unpredictable year that we are running in, and so don't take yourself out of the game. Make sure that your voice counts, and as long as my message is resonating and making a difference, then I think it is very, very important to continue the campaign."

He said he "wagered" a $25,000 filing fee to the Republican Party of Arkansas that he'll still be in the race on March 5.

Hutchinson's successor as governor, Republican Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, has endorsed Trump to be the Republican nominee. Sanders served as the White House press secretary for Trump. Sanders' father, former Republican Gov. Mike Huckabee, also has endorsed Trump.

Lyons said Friday that he is running for the Democratic presidential nomination because he wants to give people hope.

He said he is a former Republican and recently changed parties.

Lyons said Democratic President Joe Biden "went too far left, and now he is trying to come back in the middle, and it is hard to come back." He said he considers Trump to be "dangerous."

"I want change," he said.

Besides Hutchinson, Christie, Lyons and Williamson, the other presidential candidates who have filed in Arkansas to run for president so far include Biden and six Republicans -- Trump; former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, who is also the former governor of South Carolina; Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis; North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum; entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy; and businessman Ryan Binkley of McKinney, Texas.

Crawford, who has served in Congress since 2011, said Friday in a statement posted on X, formerly known as Twitter, that "I filed for reelection ... and am eager to continue the fight to secure the border and halt the crushing inflationary effects of irresponsible, multi-trillion dollar spending programs passed when liberal Democrats controlled the entire legislative branch.

"It is crucial that conservatives retain control of the House and hopefully retake the White House and Senate, allowing us to implement meaningful change that strengthens our nation and protects us from crime and terrorism," he said.

Crawford became the fourth member of Arkansas' congressional delegation to file for reelection, joining fellow Republican U.S. Reps. French Hill of Little Rock, Bruce Westerman of Hot Springs and Steve Womack of Rogers, who all filed for reelection earlier this week.

Democratic candidate Rodney Govens of Cabot, who served in the U.S. Army, filed Monday to run for the 1st Congressional District seat. Also Monday, Democratic candidate Caitlin Draper of Fayetteville, a social worker, filed to run for the 3rd District seat, and Democratic candidate Marcus Jones of Little Rock, a retired Army colonel, filed to run for the 2nd District seat.

Meanwhile, Hudson filed Friday to run for the Supreme Court's Position 2, which was held by Wynne, who died in June. Eighth South Judicial Circuit Judge Carlton Jones of Texarkana filed Monday to run for the same seat.

In July, Sanders appointed former U.S. attorney and Republican Party of Arkansas Chairman Cody Hiland to fill the post until 2025.

Asked why voters should cast their ballots for her, Hudson said she understands "the real impact that the legal system can have on someone."

When she was 6 years old, a judge in Boone County allowed her stepfather to adopt her, and she was given a new last name. It "felt like a complete family and a fresh start," she said.

"It is that understanding of the positive effect that the legal system can have that allows me in turn to do great things for litigants who appear in front of our court," Hudson said.

She currently serves in Position 3 on the court and has said she is running for Wynne's spot because it would allow her to serve longer before she retires.

The 22 candidates who filed Friday increased the total number of candidates for state and federal offices who have filed during the first five days of the filing period to 222. That's in addition to 78 judicial candidates who qualified by submitting a petition with a sufficient number of signatures of registered voters, according to the secretary of state's office.

So far, 122 Republicans and 69 Democrats have filed for state and federal offices, and one independent has filed for a state office, according to the secretary of state's office. A total of 108 nonpartisan judicial candidates have filed thus far.

Tom Bartole of Cabot, a self-described moderate Democrat, announced his bid for the House District 68 seat in a news release on Friday, then filed his paperwork to run.

State Rep. Brian Evans, R-Cabot, currently represents the district. Evans, who is chair of the House Education Committee, filed Monday to seek reelection.

Among other things, Bartole said he has been involved with the the CAPES movement. CAPES is the Citizens for Arkansas Public Education and Students, a group that unsuccessfully attempted to qualify a referendum on the LEARNS Act for the 2024 general ballot. The LEARNS Act is Sanders' signature education law.

Information for this article was contributed by Alex Thomas of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.


  photo  Arkansas state Supreme Court Justice Courtney Hudson files her paperwork at the state Capitol on Friday to run for the position on the court held by Robin Wynne before his death in June. Hudson, who would serve the final six years of Wynne’s eight-year term if elected, said the move would allow her to serve longer before she retires. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Colin Murphey)
 
 


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