Incumbent John Thurston and Eddie Joe Williams are running in the Republican primary for Arkansas Secretary of State on May 24, 2022.
In Arkansas, the secretary of state has jurisdiction over state election laws and ensuring uniform implementation throughout the state. The secretary of state is also responsible for assisting county officials with conducting elections. In addition to election-related responsibilities, the secretary of state oversees business filings and maintains the state capitol grounds and the capitol police.
Thurston and Williams have disagreed on how Arkansas handled the 2020 election. Thurston said his office assisted counties in implementing a uniform system of election equipment, adding, “There were inconsistencies across the country … however, as a result of the hard work of my staff, we did not have these issues in Arkansas.”
Williams disagreed, referencing 327 disqualified ballots included in the total count for Pulaski County, the state’s largest. Thurston responded, saying elections were run at the county level, not by the secretary of state’s office. Williams replied, “When that happens, leadership has to stand up … I will make every effort to ensure that doesn’t happen again.”
Thurston was first elected secretary of state in 2018 and served as the commissioner of state lands from 2011 to 2019. Before entering office, Thurston worked as a minister in Little Rock and with the Arkansas state prison system. Thurston highlighted his experience as secretary of state, saying he would “continue the focus on election security, preservation and security of the Capitol, and to continue to provide great customer service to those wishing to do business within the state of Arkansas.”
Williams was mayor of Cabot from 2007 to 2010. He served in the Arkansas State Senate from 2011 to 2017, before leaving office to join the Southern States Energy Board as an appointee of Pres. Donald Trump (R). Williams also worked with Union Pacific Railroad as a regional director of transportation. In a candidate interview, Williams said, “my greatest obligation as secretary of state is to prepare for the unexpected, whether that is preparing for Capitol protests, ensuring integrity during elections, or having groups and teams ready to uphold Arkansas voting laws.”
Arkansas is a Republican triplex, meaning Republicans control the offices of the governor, attorney general, and secretary of state. Upon his election to the office in 2018, Thurston became the second Republican secretary of state in Arkansas since the Reconstruction Era. The most recent time a Democrat won statewide elected office in Arkansas was in 2010.