The last person to file for statewide office in 2018 wants to be the next governor of Arkansas.
Leticia Sanders, a 42-year old Maumelle hairdresser, surprised the political establishment by plopping down her $12,000 filing fee in cash during the waning minutes of the filing period that closed at noon on Thursday (March 1). Sanders said she’s been thinking about running for governor since February 2017.
“I see everything that’s going on and it shouldn’t be going on. I’m here to make a difference, I’m here to make a change,” Sanders said, noting three issues she hoped to discuss on the campaign trail. “The justice system for one, the education system for another, our health issues is another.”
Sanders will challenge Democrat Jared Henderson, who filed for the office of Governor earlier this week.
Another Sanders – Sen. David Sanders, R-Little Rock – was among several incumbents who did not seek re-election this cycle. His western Pulaski County seat will be contested by Republicans Mark Johnson and former State Rep. Dean Elliott, R-Maumelle.
Republican and Democratic Party leaders were pleased with the filing period and offered thoughts on how energized their bases are headed into the election cycle.
“We feel very good about the filing period. We achieved our goals in recruitment in races that we felt like we can be competitive in. We certainly welcome primaries. It helps build the party,” said Arkansas GOP chairman Doyle Webb. “With the number of filings, we still overwhelmingly outpaced the Democrats on their filings, which shows across the state there’s a lot of enthusiasm for Republican candidates.”
Webb said the GOP has also seen a lot of Democratic-to-Republican conversions at the local level, a trend he feels is reflective of what’s going on at the “barbershops, the coffee shops, and beauty shops across the state.”
Democratic Party of Arkansas chairman Michael John Gray – a State Representative from Augusta who drew a GOP general election opponent – said the Democratic gubernatorial primary was a surprise. He said the strong Democratic candidate filing shows that people “care less about what the polls say and more about how to reach out to people and talk about issues that matter.”
“I think it speaks to the grassroots effort that was out there to get people on the ballot and people just being fed up with the politics of the 5:30 news and not necessarily the politics of Main Street,” said Gray. “Credit goes to people all around the state that have encouraged people to run and people that have stepped up.”
All told, the one week filing period at the state capitol saw 22 people seek U.S. Congress, including all four Republican Congressmen who face Democratic and Libertarian opposition. U.S. Rep. Steve Womack, R-Rogers, also drew a primary opponent in Robb Ryerse on the last day of filing. Incumbent U.S. Rep. Bruce Westerman, R-Hot Springs, drew a primary opponent from challenger Randy Caldwell.
There were also 22 people filing for statewide constitutional offices, including Democratic challengers to five of seven incumbent Republican officeholders. Libertarians fielded candidates in all seven constitutional races. Gov. Asa Hutchinson faces a GOP primary challenge from Jan Morgan, while Sanders and Henderson will compete for the Democratic nomination. Mark West is the Libertarian candidate.
In the State Senate, there were 36 total candidates vying for 19 seats in the 2018 cycle. All 100 House seats are up in 2018. 178 candidates filed for those offices.
By political party, Republicans fielded 135 candidates. There were 91 Democratic candidates and 25 Libertarian candidates, according to the Arkansas Secretary of State’s office. Eight people filed as independents and two as write-in candidates.
To view a list of all political candidates who filed for office, click here.
Political primaries will occur on May 22, 2018. Any run-off elections will be held three weeks later on June 19, 2018. The general election will be held on November 6, 2018.