Special election date set for Arkansas Senate seat representing Fort Smith

by Michael Tilley ([email protected]) 725 views 

A special election to fill the recently vacated District 8 Senate seat representing Fort Smith will be held Aug. 14, with the primary for the seat coinciding with the already scheduled May 22 primary for November’s general election.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Tuesday (Feb. 13) set the date by proclamation.

The seat became open Feb. 9 following the resignation of Sen. Jake Files, R-Fort Smith. Files, 45, pleaded guilty on Jan. 29 to one count of wire fraud, one count of money laundering, and one count of bank fraud. A sentencing date is pending.

The filing period for the special election also coincides with the regular filing period of Feb. 22 to March 1. The GOP filing fee for the special election is $7,500, the same as for the regular election. The Democratic Party filing fee is $4,500, but is pro-rated based on the time remaining in the term.

Former State Senator and State Representative Denny Altes said he will pony up $15,000 and file to run as a Republican in the general election and the special election. Altes has said he resigned as the Arkansas Drug Director to run for the seat.

“There is some unfinished business from when I was there (Senate) before … in 2014,” Altes told Talk Business & Politics. “And when I served as (Arkansas) drug director, there were several other states that were passing legislation that was helping with the epidemic there, and I want to see if we can pass some of that legislation.”

Rep. Mat Pitsch, R-Fort Smith, 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.

Sebastian County Republican Party Chairman Gunner DeLay said no one other than Altes has approached him about running in the special election. DeLay said he expects that anyone running in the special election would also file for the general election race.

“It would be pretty unattractive to go to the time and expense to serve three months when you can do nothing for that time frame,” DeLay said.

Debi Council, chair of the Democratic Party of Sebastian County, said at least one Democrat is interested in running for the District 8 special and general election.

“The person is really investigating it, because if they run, they will run for both,” Council said.

Link here for a PDF copy of the proclamation setting the special election.