Republicans Prepare For State Constitutional Office Runs

by Jason Tolbert ( 6 views 

When the dust cleared on the 2010 election cycle, Republicans realized they had made a mistake.  With all three of their candidates winning the down-the-ballot constitutional office races for Lieutenant Governor, Secretary of State, and Land Commissioner, they missed opprotunities by not fielding candidates for the other three offices as well.

This is a mistake they do not plan on repeating in 2014 as names already are floating for these offices over a year away from the candidate filing period.

Obviously, one office that is a key focus is that of Democratic State Treasurer Martha Shoffner who has been an embarrassment in the way she has run her office.  Shoffner is term-limited but this still presents a key opportunity for Republicans to that office.

Saline County Circuit Clerk and former Arkansas Republican chairman Dennis Milligan announced late in 2012 that he was planning on running for the office.

“We were working on this long before the Shoffner thing ever broke. That infrastructure and everything that we’ve been putting together, we were several, several months ahead of Shoffner. She just actually brought a lot of attention to that office with her gaffes,” Milligan told the Arkansas News Bureau.

In addition to Milligan, State Rep. Duncan Baird is rumored to have been thinking about running for the office as well.  Baird previously worked for Arvest Bank and is currently serving his final term in the state legislature as House chair of the Joint Budget Committee.  He also recently completed a degree in accounting.

Another office getting some recent attention is the one held by Democratic State Auditor Charlie Daniels, who is in his first term having previously served as Secretary of State and for decades as the State Land Commissioner.  Daniels is not term-limited but it is not clear if he will seek re-election.

Republican Ken Yang this weekend has launched a website and a Facebook page for Ken Yang for State Auditor.  Yang worked at a variety of places since graduating college in 2010, including as Education Coordinator for Secretary of State Martin, on Newt Gingrich’s Presidential campaign, and he currently works for Family Council of Arkansas and with American Pride political consulting with Princella Smith.

State Rep. Andrea Lea of Russellville is also rumored to be thinking about running for auditor.  Lea is term-limited and tells me she is focusing right now on the legislative session.  I would look for an announcement from her as well as Baird after the session is over.

In a similar boat is House Speaker Davy Carter, who seems like a natural fit as a Republican candidate for Attorney General.  This will be an open race as Dustin McDaniel is term-limited.  A host of Democratic hopeful young attorneys will likely seeks this office.

Republican incumbents Secretary of State Mark Martin and Land Commissioner John Thurston appear poised to seek re-election, but the Lieutenant Governor’s office might be an open race as incumbent Mark Darr has indicated he may run for another office. (I will explore exactly what this might be in a coming post.)

Since the office is not yet open, no Republicans are openly talking about running for this one, but several names come to mind from the State Senate where the lieutenant governor is the presiding officer.  State Sens. Missy Irvin and Johnny Key both drew two-year terms, meaning they can run for another office unlike those with four-year terms such Sen. Eddie Joe Williams.  Irvin and Key are both mentioned for a possible race for governor, but if the lieutenant governor’s office were to open up it might attract one of them to run for this instead.

Either way, it is clear Republicans are planning on fielding a full slate of candidates in 2014.  This is key for them to become the majority party in the state.  Officially, the majority party is the party that holds the majority of the 7 constitutional officer positions.  Currently, Democrats have this with four office holders to the Republicans three.