Tagarkansas

Stories about Arkansas

Boozman defeats three challengers to win the Republican primary for U.S. Senate in Arkansas outright

Incumbent John Boozman defeated three other candidates—Jake Bequette, Heath Loftis, and Jan Morgan—in the Republican primary for U.S. Senate in Arkansas on May 24, 2022.

Dr. Jay Barth, emeritus professor of politics at Hendrix College, said the key question in the primary was whether Boozman would be able to get more than 50% of the vote and avoid a runoff. With 90% of precincts reporting, Boozman led with 58% of the vote, followed by Bequette with 21% and Morgan with 19%.

Boozman, a former optometrist, was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 2010. Boozman had the endorsements of former President Donald Trump (R), U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), and former White House Press Secretary and 2022 Arkansas gubernatorial candidate Sarah Huckabee Sanders (R). Boozman highlighted Trump’s endorsement and focused on his legislative record, saying, “[President Trump and I] rebuilt our military, stood up for our veterans, helped our farmers through challenging and unprecedented times, confirmed three conservative Justices to the Supreme Court and completely reshaped the judiciary.”

Bequette, a U.S. Army veteran and a former football player from Little Rock, cited immigration and law enforcement as top issues. Bequette described himself as a political outsider and highlighted his military service and time as a player for the Arkansas Razorbacks and the New England Patriots. Bequette said, “I’m no squish career politician. I’m a former all-SEC Razorback and an army veteran who left the NFL and volunteered for the 101st Airborne in Iraq.” Reps. Madison Cawthorn (R) and Burgess Owens (R) endorsed Bequette.

Morgan worked as a journalist and owned a firearms training facility in Hot Springs. Morgan focused on immigration and election administration and said she supported term limits. Morgan described herself as a conservative fighter, saying, “America needs aggressive fighters in D.C. who will get in the ring and boldly take on our enemies rather than stand on the sidelines.” Former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn endorsed Morgan.

Bequette and Morgan called Boozman a RINO (Republican in Name Only) and criticized him for not challenging the results of the 2020 presidential election. Bequette also criticized Boozman for not committing to a debate. Boozman’s campaign responded by highlighting Trump’s endorsement and Boozman’s record. In one of Boozman’s campaign ads, the narrator said, “[Boozman] is a workhorse, not a show pony.” It continued, “Others have words; Boozman does the work.”

At the time of the primary, groups not directly affiliated with any of the candidates had spent $5 million in the race, the second-largest amount of satellite spending for a U.S. Senate primary where a GOP incumbent was running for re-election in 2022, according to data from Open Secrets. The Arkansas Patriots Fund spent $1.5 million in support of Bequette, the most of any group. The group received a $1 million donation from businessman Richard Uihlein last year, according to data from the FEC. Several different groups spent a combined total of $2.1 million in support of Boozman.

At the time of the primary, three independent election forecasters considered the general election as Solid Republican.



Incumbent John Thurston defeats Eddie Joe Williams in Arkansas’ Republican primary for secretary of state

Incumbent John Thurston defeated former state Sen. Eddie Joe Williams in the Republican primary for Arkansas Secretary of State on May 24, 2022.

Based on unofficial results, Thurston had 72% of the vote to Williams’ 28%.

During the primary, Thurston and Williams disagreed on how Arkansas handled the 2020 election. Thurston said, “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 pointed to 327 disqualified ballots included in the total count for Pulaski County, saying, “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 was 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 and served in the Arkansas Senate from 2011 to 2017. Williams left that position when former President Donald Trump (R) appointed him to the Southern States Energy Board. 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.”

In Arkansas, the secretary of state has jurisdiction over state election laws, 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.

Arkansas has a Republican triplex, meaning Republicans control the offices of 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 Reconstruction.



Alabama bond question, Atlanta and Little Rock local measures on Tuesday ballot

On May 24, Alabama voters will decide Amendment 1. The measure would amend the state constitution to issue up to $85 million in bonds for improvement, renovation, acquisition, construction, and maintenance of state parks.

Of the bonds, $80 million would be used for state parks managed by the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR) and $5 million would be used for historical sites managed by the Alabama Historical Commission (AHC). The ACDNR manages 21 state parks spanning a total of approximately 45,300 acres of land and water. The AHC owns and manages 15 historic sites in Alabama including forts, battlefields, and archaeological sites, historic houses, and museums. The commission’s mission statement is to “protect, preserve, and interpret Alabama’s historic places.”

Under the amendment, bond proceeds could not be used for improvement, acquisition, provision, construction, equipping, or maintenance of the Confederate Memorial Park in Marbury, Alabama. If bond proceeds exceed $85 million for any reason, additional proceeds would be allocated to the Alabama Forestry Commission for capital improvements and maintenance of state forests.

Under the amendment, no bond proceeds could be expended for maintenance or improvements to the Confederate Memorial Park in Marbury, Alabama. The home that exists at the park was constructed in 1902 as a care facility for Confederate veterans in Alabama. The last Confederate veteran living on the site died in 1934. The Alabama State Legislature created the Confederate Memorial Park in 1964 as “a shrine to the honor of Alabama’s citizens of the Confederacy.” The Confederate Memorial Park has been managed by the Alabama Historical Commission since 1971.

The amendment is supported by Governor Kay Ivey (R), who said, “It’s just real important that we all vote ‘Yes’ on that amendment on the ballot. We have so much natural beauty here, and it’s important that we offer our citizens and tourists the great opportunities to experience and enjoy them. With your support of the State Parks bond issue on May 24th, we will soon have ribbon-cuttings on several renovated campgrounds, cabins and improved day-use areas in our 21 State Parks.”

Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Commissioner Christopher Blankenship said, “As we’ve seen this past year with COVID, state parks and outdoor recreation have been extremely important to people for their physical and mental health. We saw great increases in usage at our parks, and also the federal wild properties in the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.” Blankenship also said attendance to state parks was up by about 1.2 million visitors in 2020 and the amendment would bring the state parks “up to a standard that people have come to expect now and as the landscape is changing with motor homes and they’re becoming more advanced and require more from our campground.”

In Alabama, a constitutional amendment must be passed by a 60 percent vote in each house of the state legislature during one legislative session.

Amendment 1 was sponsored by Rep. Nathaniel Ledbetter (R) and Rep. Wes Kitchens (R) as House Bill 565. On April 13, 2021, the House approved it in a vote of 97-1, with five absent or not voting. On April 29, the Senate passed an amended version of HB 565 in a vote of 29-0, with five absent or not voting. The House concurred with the amendments on the same day in a vote of 98-0, with five absent or not voting.

A total of 78 constitutional amendments appeared on the statewide ballot during even-numbered election years in Alabama from 2000 to 2020, of which, 62 were approved (79.49%), and 16 were defeated (20.51%). From 2000 to 2020, the number of measures on statewide ballots during even-numbered years ranged from four to 15.

Voters of Alabama cast ballots on five bond issues, totaling $535.2 million in value, since 1998. All were approved. The most recent bond issue decided by voters was on the ballot in 2000.

Also on May 24, voters in Little Rock Arkansas will decide a question reducing the existing capital-improvement millage from 1.8 to 1.3 mills, equal to $130 per $100,000 of assessed property value, and dedicating funds to a future issuance of bonds not to exceed $42 million for capital improvements to the Central Arkansas Library System.

Voters in Atlanta will decide two bond measures and a sales tax increase measure on May 24. The bond issues would authorize $213.01 million in general obligation bonds for constructing, improving, and repairing public safety facilities and parks and recreational facilities and $192.99 million in general obligation bonds for acquiring, planning, constructing, and maintaining roads, bicycle and transit lanes, sidewalks, pathways and trails, parks and playgrounds, and other related projects. The sales tax increase measure proposes to enact a sales tax of 0.4 percent for no more than five years to provide funding for transportation and congestion reduction projects.

Additional reading:



Four candidates are running in the Republican primary for U.S. Senate in Arkansas

Four candidates — Jake Bequette, Heath Loftis, Jan Morgan, and incumbent John Boozman — are running in the Republican primary on May 24, 2022, for U.S. Senate in Arkansas. Boozman, Bequette, and Morgan have led in polling and fundraising.

In Arkansas, a primary candidate must win more than 50% of the votes cast in order to win the election. If no candidate meets that threshold, a runoff will be held between the top two vote-getters on June 21.

Roby Brock, editor-in-chief of Talk Business & Politics, an Arkansas news website, said, “The key question in the U.S. Senate GOP primary is whether two-term U.S. Senator John Boozman can avoid a runoff election with a decidedly more conservative opponent. While our survey shows Boozman coming up just short of the magic 50% to avoid a costly and time-consuming contest, a chunk of probable GOP primary voters remain undecided.”

Boozman, a former optometrist, was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 2010. Boozman has the endorsements of former President Donald Trump (R), U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), and former White House Press Secretary and 2022 Arkansas gubernatorial candidate Sarah Huckabee Sanders (R). Boozman has highlighted Trump’s endorsement and has focused on his legislative record, saying, “[President Trump and I] rebuilt our military, stood up for our veterans, helped our farmers through challenging and unprecedented times, confirmed three conservative Justices to the Supreme Court and completely reshaped the judiciary.”

Bequette is a U.S. Army veteran and a former football player from Little Rock. Bequette cited immigration and law enforcement as top issues and has highlighted his military service and time as a player for the Arkansas Razorbacks and the New England Patriots. Bequette described himself as a political outsider, saying, “I’m no squish career politician. I’m a former all-SEC Razorback and an army veteran who left the NFL and volunteered for the 101st Airborne in Iraq.” Reps. Madison Cawthorn (R) and Burgess Owens (R) have endorsed Bequette.

Morgan is a former journalist and gubernatorial candidate who owns a firearms training facility in Hot Springs. Morgan has focused on immigration and election administration and has said she supports term limits. Morgan described herself as a conservative fighter, saying, “America needs aggressive fighters in D.C. who will get in the ring and boldly take on our enemies rather than stand on the sidelines.” Former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn has endorsed Morgan.

Bequette and Morgan have called Boozman a RINO (Republican in Name Only) and have criticized him for not challenging the results of the 2020 presidential election. Bequette has also criticized Boozman for not committing to a debate. Boozman’s campaign has responded by highlighting Trump’s endorsement and Boozman’s record. In one of Boozman’s campaign ads, the narrator says, “[Boozman] is a workhorse, not a show pony.” It continues, “Others have words; Boozman does the work.”

As of May 2022, groups not directly affiliated with any of the candidates had spent a total of $2,787,346 in the race, the second-largest amount of satellite spending for a primary where a GOP incumbent is running for re-election, according to data from Open Secrets. The Arkansas Patriots Fund has spent $1,471,182 in support of Bequette, the most of any group. The group received a $1M donation from businessman Richard Uihlein last year, according to data from the FEC. Several different groups have spent a combined total of $1,163,214 in support of Boozman.

As of May 2022, three independent election forecasters considered the general election as Solid Republican.



Two candidates running in Arkansas’ Republican primary for secretary of state

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.

Additional reading:



Voters in Little Rock to decide measure to reduce an ad valorem tax for the Central Arkansas Library System

Voters in Little Rock will decide on a ballot measure that would reduce the existing capital-improvement millage from 1.8 to 1.3 mills on May 24. This would equate to $130 per $100,000 of assessed property value. The existing limit is a combination of two separate ad valorem taxes each at 0.9 mills. The measure would combine the taxes into one rate of 1.3 mills. The measure also provides that the revenue from the tax be dedicated to a future issuance of bonds not to exceed $42 million for capital improvements to the Central Arkansas Library System. A simple majority is required for the tax to pass.

The Little Rock Board of Directors voted to refer the tax measure to the ballot on March 1, 2022.

Last November, voters approved with 71% of the vote an increase to the operational millage rate for the library system from 3.5 mills to 3.8 mills. The operational millage is separate from the ad valorem tax.

In Arkansas, all polls are open from 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Election Day. The deadline to register to vote in the election is April 24.

In 2022, Ballotpedia is covering local measures that appear on the ballot for voters within the top 100 largest cities in the U.S. and all state capitals, including those outside of the top 100 largest cities.

Additional reading:



Arkansas has the most contested state legislative primaries since at least 2014

From 2014 to 2020, the number of state legislative primaries in Arkansas with more than one candidate ranged from 21 to 27. This year, the number of contested primaries rose to 62. This represents 28% of the possible state legislative primaries this year.

The number of contested Republican primaries more than tripled from 2020, increasing from 16 to 52. The number of contested Democratic primaries doubled compared to 2020, from five to 10. These numbers represent the most contested primaries for each party since at least 2014.

Of those candidates involved in contested primaries, 29 are incumbents, representing 28% of incumbents seeking re-election, the largest such percentage since at least 2014. As a result of redistricting, two incumbents—Reps. Mark McElroy (R) and David Tollett (R)—were drawn into the same district, setting up the legislature’s only incumbent versus incumbent primary.

The filing deadline for candidates running for state or federal office in Arkansas this year was March 1. Candidates filed to run for all of the state’s 100 House and 35 Senate districts.

Thirty-two of those districts were left open, meaning no incumbents filed to run, the most since at least 2014. That represents about 24% of districts holding elections this year, all of which are guaranteed to be won by newcomers.

Overall, 263 major party candidates filed to run this year: 74 Democrats and 189 Republicans. That’s 1.9 candidates per district, an increase from the 1.6 candidates per district in 2020 and 1.7 in 2018.

Arkansas has been a Republican trifecta since 2014 when Asa Hutchinson (R) won the governorship. Republicans currently hold a 27-7-1 majority in the Senate and a 78-22 majority in the House.

Arkansas’ state legislative primaries are scheduled for May 24, making them the 11th in the nation.

Additional reading:



Arkansas has most incumbents in contested U.S. House primaries in at least a decade

The filing deadline for candidates running for state or federal office in Arkansas was March 1. This year, 16 candidates are running for Arkansas’ four U.S. House districts, including eight Republicans, four Democrats, three Libertarians, and one independent. That’s an average of 4 candidates per district, more than the 2.3 candidates per district in 2020 and fewer than the 5.5 in 2018.

Here are some other highlights from this year’s filings:

  • This is the first election to take place under new district lines following the 2020 census. Arkansas was apportioned the same number of congressional districts as after the 2010 census.
  • Incumbents are running in all elections. Arkansas hasn’t had an open House district since the 2014 elections, when two incumbents didn’t run.
  • District 4 incumbent Rep. Bruce Westerman is running unopposed in the Republican primary. This year’s elections have the highest number of incumbents in contested primaries (3, or 75%) since at least 2012. The second-highest was in 2018, when two incumbents (50%) faced contested primaries. No incumbents had primary challengers in 2020.
  • At least one candidate filed for each major party primary in each district.
  • The 1st District race has five candidates, the most of any district. Three Republicans, two Democrats, and one independent are running.

Arkansas’ U.S. House primaries are on May 24, with a June 21 runoff in the event that no candidate receives a majority in a primary. Alabama and Georgia also hold primaries on May 24. Ten states hold primaries before that date.

Additional reading:



Voters will decide on legislative proposals adding restrictions to ballot initiative processes in Arizona, Arkansas, and South Dakota in 2022

Voters in at least three states will decide legislative proposals to change citizen-initiated ballot measure processes this year. Legislatures in Arizona, Arkansas, and South Dakota have passed constitutional amendments on ballot initiatives, and additional constitutional changes are being considered in Arizona and Missouri.

In 2020, voters decided legislative referrals on ballot initiatives in Arkansas, Florida, Montana, and North Dakota, with the proposed changes rejected in Arkansas, Florida, and North Dakota, and approved in Montana.

The first vote on an initiative-related constitutional amendment will be on June 7, 2022, in South Dakota. Amendment C would require a three-fifths (60%) vote at an election to approve ballot measures designed to increase taxes or fees or require the state to appropriate $10 million or more in the first five fiscal years following enactment. The state Legislature passed the constitutional amendment in March 2021. Senate and House Democrats opposed the proposal. Republicans were divided 69 to 24.

Supermajority requirement: A vote requirement above a simple majority is considered a supermajority requirement. Currently, Colorado, Florida, and New Hampshire have supermajority requirements for constitutional amendments. Illinois requires a 60% vote for constitutional amendments or a simple majority of every ballot cast. Seven other states have laws on the minimum percentage of ballots cast in an election and ballot measure approval. In addition, Washington state requires a 60% vote on gambling-related referendums, Utah requires a two-thirds vote on initiatives concerning the taking of wildlife, and Florida requires a two-thirds vote on amendments that enact new taxes or fees.

In Arizona, voters will decide constitutional amendments at the general election in November. Republicans in the legislature backed two proposals that would make changes to the ballot initiative process. Legislative Democrats opposed both.

One would allow legislators to amend or repeal voter-approved ballot initiatives if any portion has been declared unconstitutional or invalid by the Arizona Supreme Court or U.S. Supreme Court. Initiatives sometimes include severance provisions, so that if one provision is struck as unconstitutional, other provisions can remain binding. Under the proposal, an initiative could be repealed regardless of severance if any provision is struck down. Currently, the Legislature cannot amend or repeal voter-approved ballot initiatives due to Proposition 105 (1998), also known as the Voter Protection Act, with an exception for changes that further a measure’s purpose and receive a three-fourths vote in each legislative chamber. 

The other amendment in Arizona would add a provision to the state constitution that requires citizen-initiated ballot measures to embrace a single subject. The ballot measure would also require the initiative’s subject to be expressed in the ballot title, or else the missing subject would be considered void. Based on a 2017 state Supreme Court ruling, the state constitution’s existing single-subject rule applies to legislative bills but not citizen-initiated measures.

Single-subject rule: Laws that require legislation, such as ballot initiatives, to address a single subject are called single-subject rules. Of the 24 states that allow for initiated constitutional amendments or statutes, 16 of them require initiatives to conform to a single subject.

A third constitutional amendment is also being considered in Arizona. The Arizona House voted 31 to 28 on Feb. 22, 2022, for an amendment to require a three-fifths (60%) vote for voters to approve citizen-initiated measures and constitutional amendments. House Republicans and House Democrats divided on the proposal, with the former supporting and latter opposing the change.

Similar to the proposal in Arizona, the Arkansas State Legislature passed a constitutional amendment requiring a three-fifths (60%) vote for voters to approve citizen-initiated measures and constitutional amendments. Voters will decide the issue on Nov. 8. In the Arkansas House, 72 Republicans and 2 Democrats approved the amendment, and 1 Republican and 17 Democrats opposed it. In the Senate, the vote was divided along party lines, with Republicans voting for and Democrats voting against.

The Missouri House of Representatives approved a constitutional amendment that would increase the number of required signatures for initiated constitutional amendments from 8% of voters in six of the state’s eight congressional districts to 10% of voters in all eight of the congressional districts. The proposal would also require a two-thirds (66.67%) vote of voters to approve a ballot measure. Democrats, along with seven Republicans, opposed the amendment, while 98 Republicans voted to refer the changes to voters. The Senate needs to pass the amendment by a simple majority to put the amendment on the ballot.

Distribution requirement: A requirement that petitions must be signed by voters from different political subdivisions in order for a ballot measure to qualify for the ballot is called a distribution requirement. Of the 26 states that provide for initiatives or referendums, 16 of them have distribution requirements.

The three measures that Arizona, Arkansas, and South Dakota legislatures put on the 2022 ballot were among 231 legislative proposals related to state and local ballot measures and recall processes that Ballotpedia tracked in 2021. Thirty-six proposals were approved, including bills that have already been signed into law. In 2021, Arkansas, Florida, Idaho, Maine, Montana, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Utah legislatures passed restrictions on the initiative processes in their states.

Additional reading:



Colby Fulfer wins Arkansas State Senate special election

A special general election was held for Arkansas State Senate District 7 on Feb. 8. Colby Fulfer (R) won the special election with 2,032 votes and defeated Lisa Parks (D), who received 1,998 votes. The Republican primary runoff was held on Jan. 11. The filing deadline passed on Nov. 22.

The special election was called after Lance Eads (R) left office to accept a position with Capitol Consulting Firm on Oct. 28. Eads served from 2017 to 2021. 

As of February, 36 state legislative special elections have been scheduled for 2022 in 17 states. Between 2011 and 2021, an average of 74 special elections took place each year. Arkansas held 15 special elections from 2010 to 2021.

Entering the special election, the Arkansas State Senate had seven Democrats, 26 Republicans, one independent, and one vacancy. A majority in the chamber requires 18 seats. Arkansas has a Republican trifecta. A state government trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and both state legislative chambers.

Additional reading: