I spoke with Rep. John Burris today who confirmed reports that he plans to seek the position of first vice chairman of the Republican Party.  Duane Neal of Bentonville currently holds this position and the people I spoke with say they believe he plans to seek re-election.

“I believe to maximize our potential in 2014, we have to all be working together,” said Burris when I asked him why he was running. “We need bold and assertive leadership to move our party forward. I believe my experiences in campaigns and policy-making will allow me to serve the Republican Party of Arkansas well.”

Burris also sent a letter to state committee members listing his resume:  State Representative since 2008, former House Minority leader, 2012 campaign chairman for the House Republican caucus, as well as chairman of several party groups and various campaigns.

Good resume, but Burris is a known commodity in Republican circles.  The race will be about either sticking with Neal or adding someone new to the executive committee.  The first vice chairman also chairs the party's budget committee, so the office is far from a token position.

“The position of 1st Vice-Chairman of the Republican Party of Arkansas is critical to our party’s success in 2014. This position is charged with chairing the Budget Committee, which means playing an integral role in the financial stability of the party. I believe my prior experience will help me perform critical tasks, such as assisting with fundraising, preparing and monitoring the party budget, and ensuring we are compliant with all state and federal election law requirements,” wrote Burris in his letter.

“Most importantly, it is important that your 1st Vice-Chairman always works to serve in the best interest of the Republican Party of Arkansas. This means supporting and defending our conservative platform and always supporting our Republican nominees for office. We cannot let personality or factions within our party distract us from the opportunity ahead,” wrote Burris.

This marks the second time that Burris has rocked the Republican establishment boat.  It is pretty well-known that he was one of the House members who supported Rep. Davy Carter in his coup last week to take over the Speaker's chair and challenge the party establishment's pick of Rep. Terry Rice.

I can also tell you that Burris' name was brought up a couple of weeks ago not as a candidate for first vice chair, but for chairman.  Some were dissatisfied by the lack of GOTV from the party in the final weeks of the campaign when they seemed a bit overconfident in taking a strong majority based on internal poll numbers.

There are also some not pleased with Neal's seemingly poor team spirit after losing his primary against Jim Dotson for State Representative District 93.  Following the election, Neal filed several ethics complaints against Dotson.

There is no word yet if any of the other offices will have contested races, including Chairman Doyle Webb.  The 2012 Winter State Committee Meeting will be next Saturday, December 1 at 10:00 am in Arlington Hotel in Hot Springs.

UPDATE – Neal confirms to me that he will be seek re-election so it looks like there will be a contest.

“To assure that we hold election gains made in 2012 from the courthouse to the State and Congressional level and to extend those gains in the 2014 election cycle we must provide stability and continuity in the leadership of our State Party,” said Neal in a letter going out to state committee members. “As a member of our State Party leadership team for the past four years with Chairman Doyle Webb, 2nd Vice-Chair Robin Lundstrum and Secretary Jennifer Parks, we have supported our party objectives and have worked to elect conservative candidates at all levels of government. One of our primary objectives in 2014 must be to elect a Republican Senator and send Senator Pryor into retirement.”

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Jason Tolbert is the moderator for his opinion blog, The Tolbert Report. He can be reached by e-mail at Jason@TolbertReport.com. Follow him on Twitter: @TolbertReport.

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