Sanders, Jones make history in Arkansas governor’s race primaries

by Steve Brawner ([email protected]) 1,679 views 

Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Tuesday (May 24) became the first female Republican party nominee for Arkansas governor, while Chris Jones became the first African-American major party gubernatorial nominee.

Lt. Governor Tim Griffin won an easy victory in the attorney general’s race, while Attorney General Leslie Rutledge had a big lead in the lieutenant governor’s race that eventually allowed her to avoid a runoff election June 21.

In Supreme Court races, incumbent Justice Karen Baker was headed to victory, while incumbent Justice Robin Wynne was trying to avoid a runoff.

At about 10 p.m., Sanders was leading Doc Washburn in the Republican Party primary, 83% to 17%. Sanders had 285,109 votes to Washburn’s 57,855. Nearly 98% of precincts across the state were reporting results.

In the Democratic primary, Jones was victorious in a five-candidate field. He had 70% of the vote, or 66,182 votes, which was far ahead of the rest of the field. Anthony Bland was second with 9.5%. Former Rep. Jay Martin was third with 8%, James Russell was fourth with 6.5%, and Supha Xayprasith-Mays was fifth with 5%.

Sanders took the stage at her victory party saying, “This is absolutely humbling and incredible in so many ways. I didn’t think I’d get so emotional this fast. … This is the first time I’ve ever stood on the stage as the candidate, and I’ve got to say I don’t hate it.”

She said she was running to make sure students were “educated, not indoctrinated.” Referencing the mass shooting in Texas earlier in the day, she said she wanted to make sure students are safe. Discussing abortion, she said, “We will make sure that when a kid is in the womb, they’re as safe as they are in a classroom, a workplace, a nursing home, because every stage of life has value, no one greater than the other.”

A heavy favorite to be elected in a Republican state, she did not reference Jones or the coming campaign. Instead, she closed by saying, “The real work starts in January of next year when we take office, and we take Arkansas to the very top.”

In his victory speech, Jones, a physicist, contrasted nuclear fission, when atoms divide, with nuclear fusion, when atoms come together, as they do in the sun. Fusion takes more effort and creates more power, and the same would be so with “nuclear fusion politics.”

“When we come together, when we take risks, when we are willing to put old divisions behind us, when we join as one Arkansas, we can create what is beyond our wildest dreams,” he said.

Jones said that starting next week, his campaign will launch its “Walk a Mile in Your Shoes Tour.” He said he would walk a mile in all 75 counties. Jones acknowledged he is the underdog in the race but compared his campaign to a bumblebee, which aerodynamically shouldn’t fly but does. Referencing the biblical story of David and Goliath, he said, “They say we’re the underdog in this race. They say we’re facing a giant. But we have five stones.”

The two will face each other in the general election along with Libertarian Ricky Harrington.

In the attorney general’s race, Griffin was leading Leon Jones, 86% to 14%. Griffin will face Democrat Jesse Gibson in the general election.

In the lieutenant governor’s race, Rutledge led the six-candidate GOP field with 54%, more than the 50%-plus-one required to avoid a runoff. State Sen. Jason Rapert, R-Conway, was second with 14%. Surgeon General Dr. Greg Bledsoe was third with 10%. Washington County Judge Joseph Wood was fifth with 8%. Doyle Webb was fifth with 7%. Chris Bequette was sixth with 6%. Rutledge will face Democrat Kelly Krout and Libertarian Frank Gilbert this fall.

In other statewide races, Secretary of State John Thurston was victorious in his race with Eddie Joe Williams. Thurston was leading, 72% to 28%. The winner will face the winner of the Democratic primary. In that race, Anna Beth Gorman outpaced Joshua Price, 58% to 42%.

In the treasurer’s race, Rep. Mark Lowery, R-Maumelle, defeated Sen. Mat Pitsch, R-Fort Smith, 73% to 27%.

In the race for the Arkansas Supreme Court Position 6, Justice Karen Baker was headed to re-election. She was leading Judge Gunner DeLay, 63% to 37%. In the race for Supreme Court Position 2, Justice Robin Wynne was leading with 49.39% in a three-person race, with Judge Chris Carnahan second with 29.74% and David Sterling with 20.87%. If the numbers hold, Wynne and Carnahan will face each other in the November 8 general election.

Two other statewide races did not feature competitive primary elections. In the state auditor’s race, Republican Dennis Milligan, the current state treasurer, will face Democrat Diamond Arnold-Johnson and Libertarian Simeon Snow in November. Land Commissioner Tommy Land, a Republican, is running for re-election against Darlene Goldi Gaines.