Familiar Fort Smith politico Denny Altes will seek election to the Arkansas Senate seat recently vacated by Republican Jake Files. However, Altes is not sure if he will run in a possible special election for the seat, enter the GOP primary in the regular election cycle, or both.
Files pleaded guilty Jan. 29 to federal charges including bank fraud, and formally resigned on Feb. 9.
The process for a replacement begins with Gov. Asa Hutchinson asking the two major political parties if they want to have a convention or special election to fill the vacancy. If a convention is agreed to by the two parties, then the governor sets a date for a special general election to fill out the remainder of Files’ term, which would be through the end of this year. If a primary is requested by one of the parties, then both have to abide by that decision.
It’s likely at least one of the parties will call for a special election, which means an election calendar will have to be established for a special primary, run-off and general election. It would likely be this summer before the vacancy would be filled.
Altes resigned in early 2017 as the state’s drug director. The drug director oversees and coordinates the activities of the Arkansas State Drug Abuse and Prevention Coordinating Council and is responsible for coordination of all alcohol and drug abuse prevention/treatment initiatives in Arkansas.
Altes served in the House of Representatives from 1999-2003 and represented Senate District 13 from 2003 to 2011. He returned to the House of Representatives in 2011 and represented the 76th District until January 2015. Altes has also served two stints with the Sebastian County Quorum Court.
Altes told Talk Business & Politics he planned to run for the seat, but is waiting to see how the vacancy will be filled. If it is a special election, Altes said he would likely enter that race and also be a candidate in the regular election.
“When I left (as drug director), I told the governor that I could serve him better by returning (to the Senate),” Altes said.
Rep. Mat Pitsch, R-Fort Smith, had already declared interest in running for Files’ seat, when Files said earlier he would not seek re-election. Pitsch can be a candidate for the open seat election to take place in November, but he’s restricted from being a candidate in the special election to fill out Files’ term due to a constitutional restriction on sitting legislators.
Talk Business & Politics CEO and co-owner Roby Brock contributed to this report.