The Libertarian Party of Arkansas nominated more than 50 candidates for office Feb. 20, including candidates for governor, U.S. Senate, three U.S. House races, and 39 state legislative races.
Candidates for statewide and federal races are:
– Governor, Ricky Harrington
– Lieutenant Governor, Frank Gilbert
– U.S. Senate, Kenneth Cates
– U.S. House District 2, Michael White
– U.S. House District 3, Michael Kalagias
– U.S. House District 4, Gregory Maxwell
Harrington received 33.55% of the vote in a two-person race against Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., for U.S. Senate in 2020, collecting 399,390 votes. His performance gained national attention in Libertarian circles, said the party’s chairman, Dr. Michael Pakko.
Pakko said Harrington’s candidacy for governor was a major factor in the party’s ability to attract candidates this year. A political action committee led by the party’s former executive director, Wes Benedict, helped recruit candidates. He coordinated a letter mailed to party members urging them to “Run with Ricky.”
“The idea was to get people to sign up to run on the same ticket with Ricky Harrington, and a remarkable number of people responded to that appeal,” Pakko said. “Many people who were here today, they were asked, why did you decide to run for office? The answer was, ‘Well, first of all, I got the letter asking me to.’ And then they went on to say why they decided that was a good idea to do.”
Among the other candidates for major office, Gilbert is a longtime party activist and political candidate who collected 2.8% of the vote running for the 4th District U.S. House seat in 2020. Kalagias ran for the same post he is currently seeking, receiving 3.88% of the vote.
Pakko noted that candidates still must file to run for office. The filing period lasts from noon on Tuesday, Feb. 22 to noon on Tuesday, March 1.
Arkansas political parties are required to collect signatures to appear on the ballot if their candidate does not receive 3% of the vote in the previous gubernatorial election. The Libertarian gubernatorial candidate in 2018, Mark West, finished with 2.9%.
Previously, so-called “new” parties were required to collect 10,000 signatures, but lawmakers changed the law in 2019, making it harder for those parties to qualify. Under the new law, Libertarians would have to collect almost 26,750 signatures.
The Libertarians sued and were granted an injunction before the 2020 election. Pakko said arguments have been filed, and the parties are awaiting a federal court decision. The party submitted about 14,500 signatures this cycle, of which he said 12,000 were valid.
Two attempts by Legislatures in the past to increase the signature requirement have been struck down by court decisions in 1996 and 2006.
Pakko said it cost the party $45,000 to collect the signatures – a higher cost than in previous elections.
The Libertarian Party supports a greatly reduced role for government and expanded individual choice in all areas of American life. As a party, it would reduce government spending and taxes significantly while also supporting abortion rights and legalizing marijuana.
Harrington said in an interview that his goal is to win the governor’s race and to raise $1 million, which would be far more than any Libertarian candidate has raised in Arkansas history. He raised $79,563.90 in his race against Cotton and said he would aggressively fundraise this time, including by seeking out-of-state sources. He said his campaign so far has raised between $7,000 and $10,000.
“But now [that] things are getting a lot [more] serious and the nomination is confirmed, we’ll be filing on Tuesday with the secretary of state, so now we’ll be running full tilt boogie,” he said.
Two candidates have announced they are running for governor as Republicans: Sarah Huckabee Sanders and Doc Washburn. Five Democrats have said they are running: Chris Jones, former state Rep. Jay Martin, Supha Xayprasith-Mays, James Russell, and Anthony Bland.
Sanders, the favorite, raised $12.8 million through Dec. 31. In a Talk Business & Politics-Hendrix College poll whose results were reported Feb. 14, she had 43.5% support with 34% supporting the Democratic nominee and 7.5% supporting a generic third party or independent candidate.
Harrington said he was encouraged by the poll. He said he hopes to campaign in all 75 counties.
He said he would focus on creating a more accountable culture in law enforcement. He supports legalizing marijuana and would issue clemencies and pardons for individuals previously convicted of nonviolent possession but no other offenses on a case-by-case basis. He said he wants to increase competition in health care, increase school choice options, and reform the state’s occupational licensure system.
He said he believed Gov. Asa Hutchinson had “done the best he could” responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, and that the state needs to plan for future pandemics. As governor, he said he would not close businesses and would encourage people to wear masks rather than mandating it.
He said he would be less focused on culture war issues. Asked about abortion, he said he supports abortion rights and opposes Texas’ law that allows citizens to sue abortion providers, even if the citizen had no connection to the abortion.
“That turns everyday citizens into enemies of one another where we turn in people for things that they’re doing in their personal life,” he said.
In contrast to Harrington and some of the others, White is making his first race. The Little Rock Realtor hopes to unseat incumbent U.S. Rep. French Hill, R-Little Rock. Important issues to him include term limits, requiring members of Congress to divest their investments to cash, and criminal justice reform – specifically the Controlled Substances Act.
He said Libertarians are hoping “to make the entire political system more honest by injecting a legitimate third party starting right here in Arkansas.”
Candidates nominated for state legislative positions include the following:
District 8 – David Dinwiddie
District 13 – Noah Jones
District 15 – Charles Guidry
District 16 – Jaron Salazar
District 21 – Alfred Holland
District 25 – Doug Peterson
District 30 – Chester Griffith
District 34 – Jean Pierre Devilliers
District 2 – Teresa Norman
District 3 – Steve Parsons
District 6 – Dakota Logan
District 9 – Steven Stilling
District 12 – David Gill
District 23 – Ryan Hanson
District 30 – Cheryl Primm
District 32 – Eric McGee
District 37 – Brian Ramsey
District 39 – Clayton Hall
District 41 – Edward Flanigan
District 50 – Stephen Edwards
District 56 – Howard Heffington
District 57 – Joshua Huckaba
District 59 – Kai Schulz
District 61 – Garrett Sheeks
District 65 – Richard Wilson
District 68 – Robert Betzold
District 70 – Peyton Berks
District 71 – Aaron Raatz
District 73 – Miles McDonnell
District 74 – Ashton Winkelmeyer
District 76 – Genni Sutanto
District 81 – Greg Sharp
District 82 – Brandon Kelley
District 83 – Jason Reeves
District 87 – Marc Rosson
District 92 – Chris Hayes
District 93 – Aaron Cagle
District 99 – Paul Green
District 100 – Luke Robertson