Contested races set for all Congressional districts; four vie for Supreme Court Chief Justice

by Talk Business & Politics staff ([email protected]) 825 views 

Arkansas’ four U.S. House of Representatives members will face either a primary or general election opponent in the 2024 election, although the four are considered safe for re-election. The election cycle will also see four people vie for Arkansas Supreme Court Chief Justice.

The candidate filing deadline for the 2024 election cycle ended at Noon Tuesday (Nov. 14) with the Arkansas Secretary of State website indicating that 351 Arkansans filed to seek an elected federal, state or judicial position. The 2024 statewide primary election is set for March 5, and the general election will be held Nov. 5. (Link here to see the candidate filings.)

In Arkansas’ 1st Congressional District, U.S. Rep. Rick Crawford, R-Jonesboro will not have a primary opponent but will face Democrat Rodney Govens, a 40-year year old Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran from Cabot, in the November general election.

U.S. Rep. French Hill, R-Little Rock, also does not have a primary opponent but will face Democrat Marcus Jones, a retired U.S. Army Lt. Col., in the general election for the 2nd Congressional District job.

In the 3rd Congressional District, U.S. Rep. Steve Womack, will face Arkansas Sen. Clint Penzo, R-Springdale, in the GOP primary. The primary winner will face Democrat Caitlin Draper in the general election. Draper is a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW), small business owner and community advocate.

U.S. Rep. Bruce Westerman, R-Hot Springs, will have two general election opponents in the 4th Congressional District race. Democrat Risie Howard, a lawyer from Pine Bluff and daughter of former U.S. District Court Judge George Howard Jr., and Independent John White, who ran and lost as a Democrat in the 2022 election, filed Tuesday to enter the race.

The decision by Arkansas Supreme Court Chief Justice Dan Kemp to not seek re-election resulted in a four-person race for the state’s top judicial post. Three of those seeking the job are Supreme Court justices.

Justices Karen Baker, Barbara Webb, and Rhonda Wood have filed for the job. Little Rock attorney and former member of the Arkansas Legislature Jay Martin is also running for the top court post.

Baker was first elected to the Arkansas Supreme Court in 2010. After starting in private practice, Baker served as a District Circuit/Chancery Judge for nearly five years before serving 10 years on the Arkansas Court of Appeals. Baker is serving her third term in Position 6 on the Supreme Court and was re-elected in 2022.

Webb, who has more than 20 years of experience as a judge, was first elected to the Arkansas Supreme Court in 2020. Webb has held previous roles as chief law judge at the Arkansas Workers’ Compensation Commission, the first female Circuit Judge for the 22nd Judicial Circuit, and the first elected female prosecuting attorney in Saline County. Webb has also served as a special associate justice of the Arkansas Supreme Court.

Wood was first elected to the Arkansas Supreme Court in 2014 and reelected in 2022. She previously served on the Court of Appeals and as a circuit judge in the 20th Judicial District from 2007-12. She has served on Judicial Education for over fifteen years. She is the court’s liaison on Automation and has been their liaison to Court Reporters’ Board and Court Security. She was a nine-year delegate to the Arkansas Bar Association and served on the American Bar Association Appellate Judicial Education Committee for several years. She has chaired the Commission on Children, Youth, and Families since 2014.

Martin is an attorney with Wallace & Associates where he has served as president since 2006. His principal areas of practice are civil and criminal litigation, wills, trusts and estates, and business formation. Martin is a former Democratic legislator who served in the Arkansas House of Representatives from 2003 to 2007 representing North Little Rock and Sherwood and was the House Majority Leader in the 85th General Assembly. He was a Democratic candidate for Arkansas governor in 2022.

Of the 351 filings shown by the Secretary of State’s office, 133 are Republican, 97 are Democrat, and 118 are non-partisan judicial candidates.

Republican Party of Arkansas Chairman Joseph Wood said the party was able to recruit “quality” candidates for the 2024 election cycle.

“It isn’t just about the number of candidates that have filed with the Republican Party of Arkansas, though we dominate that conversation, too. We’re proud of the quality of the candidates that have filed with us in the past week. We are excited about our state and federal candidates, but we are also proud of the hundreds of Justices of the Peace, Constables, and other partisan municipal officeholders that our county committees have worked to register,” Wood said in a statement.

Grant Tennille, chairman of the Democratic Party of Arkansas, said party candidates include retired military officers, public school teachers, students, farmers, and lawyers.

“Of course, I need to offer one final thank you,” Tennille noted in a statement. “I need to thank Governor Sarah Sanders and her staff. To quote the farmer we spoke to in Searcy County earlier this month, ‘Governor Sanders has done more to help the Democratic Party than anything we’ve seen in years.’ Put simply, the conduct and political arrogance of the supermajority party in this state have led to a stronger position for the Democratic Party and the results speak for themselves.”