The carnival atmosphere of the final day of candidate filing for the 2020 election cycle brought its usual surprises, including the formal challenge by Sen. Joyce Elliott, D-Little Rock, to U.S. Rep. French Hill, R-Little Rock, and a personal appearance by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who filed as a Democrat for President.
But the biggest news of the day happened after the bell closed the filing period. Democrat Josh Mahony, who announced earlier this year that he would challenge Republican incumbent U.S. Senator Tom Cotton, said he was withdrawing from the race.
Citing a family health concern, Mahony released a statement to supporters shortly after the filing period ended that explained he would no longer be able to devote time and energy to the race.
“I would like to extend my deepest gratitude to all of those who have supported me during this race. It has been the honor of my life to be able to meet and visit with so many Arkansans over the last six months and hear their voices. It was my sincere hope to be their advocate in Washington, D.C. However, in this moment right now, I need to focus on my family and place their interests first,” he said.
Mahony added that the campaign would “cease operations immediately” and asked for privacy on the matter.
It was immediately unclear how or if the Democratic Party of Arkansas can fill the candidacy void from Mahony’s withdrawal.
A ROBUST ROTUNDA
Elliott’s surprise announcement in the Congressional race ginned up excitement for Democrats. She is expected to energize the Democrats’ base, but she will also be a motivator for Republican voters who oppose her politics.
Elliott could boost hopes for several competitive legislative races in central Arkansas, where Democrats do have deep pockets of support or may see suburban voters trending in their direction. Her candidacy may also feed off the upcoming Little Rock School Board elections slated for next year, which could draw substantial turnout in Democratically-strong parts of the capital city.
Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire and former New York City mayor, appeared in person to file his registration in the Democratic Party for President. He said his campaign is still in the exploratory phase, but he needed to submit paperwork for Arkansas’ primary if he enters. He also said he remains committed to defeating President Donald Trump whether he’s the Democratic nominee or not.
When asked if he would support the eventual Democratic nominee, Bloomberg said, “That is a very easy thing to say ‘yes’ given who the Republican candidate is going to be. I couldn’t be more clear I do not think that Donald Trump should get elected.”
Other Presidential filers on the last day included Democrats Julian Castro, Tusli Gabbard and Andrew Yang as well as Republican Bill Weld, the former governor of Massachusetts.
All told, 18 Democrats, three Republicans, and one independent filed for U.S. President in Arkansas.
HOUSE AND SENATE
On the legislative front, there were a number of last-minute contests from Republican and Democratic filers. There were candidates for all 100 House seats and 17 State Senate seats.
Overall, Republicans fielded 121 state House and Senate candidates, while Democrats pooled 69 candidates for the legislature.
There will be 47 contested legislative races between Democrats and Republicans in next November’s general election. Eight of those contests will be in the Arkansas State Senate and 39 in the House of Representatives.
Republicans will have 16 contested primary elections, including three in the Senate and 13 in the House. Democrats will have five primary contests, including two in the Senate and three in the House.
Currently, Republicans hold 75 seats in the Arkansas House, while Democrats hold 23 seats. There are two vacancies in the House. In the State Senate, Republicans have a 26-9 advantage over Democrats.
In Supreme Court action, only two candidates filed for the Arkansas Supreme Court, Pos. 4 seat. Incumbent Justice Jo Hart did not file for re-election. Morgan “Chip” Welch and Barbara Webb will both run for the independent judicial office.
You can view a complete list of all the candidates at this link.