One hundred and thirty-seven candidates for state and federal offices and their supporters kicked off Arkansas' filing period for the 2024 election Monday.
That's in addition to the 78 judicial candidates who qualified for the 2024 election ballot by submitting petitions with sufficient numbers of signatures of registered voters, said Jaime Land, a spokesperson for the secretary of state's office.
In the first five hours of the filing period that ends at noon Nov. 14, 125 candidates filed for president, Congress, the state Legislature and state treasurer. A complete list of filings can be found at candidates.arkansas.gov.
"I know that during this filing time that spirits are high [and] people are excited," Republican Secretary of State John Thurston told candidates in the state Capitol rotunda shortly before the filing period started at noon.
"Some people are running for the first time [and there are] a lot of unknowns," he said. "I guess I would just say, 'Take a deep breath, enjoy yourself, because there are going to be plenty of challenges along the way on this journey you are on. Just do your best to remain human and to remain normal.'"
Five presidential candidates filed Monday. They include Democratic President Joseph R. Biden and four Republicans -- former President Donald J. Trump, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, and entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy. They had surrogates file on their behalf.
Arkansas -- along with other states such as California, Texas, Virginia, North Carolina and Oklahoma -- will hold its primary elections March 5, also known as Super Tuesday. The runoff election is April 2, 2024, and the general election is Nov. 5, 2024.
The first day of Arkansas' filing period is historically the busiest, as candidates, other politicos and reporters flock to the second floor of the Capitol rotunda.
Republican U.S. Reps French Hill and Bruce Westerman, whose paperwork was filed by their supporters, make up half of the state's four-member delegation to the U.S. House of Representatives.
Westerman, who represents the 4th Congressional District, said Monday in a written statement that "It is a privilege to represent the Fourth District and to advocate for conservative values, lower taxes, and an environment where we can grow good-paying jobs for Arkansas workers."
Westerman doesn't have an announced opponent yet.
Hill, who represents the 2nd Congressional District, said Monday in a written statement that he has advocated for the hardworking families of Central Arkansas since taking office, and he has "worked tirelessly to ensure that Central Arkansas voices are heard and our conservative principles are upheld."
Democrat Marcus Jones of Little Rock, a retired Army colonel, filed Monday to run for the 2nd Congressional District seat, saying he wants to "return the vote in Washington to the interest of Central Arkansans."
Democrat Caitlin Draper, a social worker from Fayetteville, filed to run for the 3rd Congressional District seat, currently held by Womack.
"I think when we started women's rights being taken away, books being banned, shootings going up, it became clear that we needed action," Draper said.
Democrat Rodney Govens of Cabot, who served in the U.S. Army and has a background working in telecommunications, filed to run for the 1st Congressional District seat currently held by Rep. Rick Crawford.
"Everybody is tired of the leadership that we have in place right [now]," Govens said. "We've got leadership that doesn't come home. We got leadership that go ahead and work for you."
Vortex PAC, led by former Democratic gubernatorial nominee Chris Jones, recruited the three Democrats to run for Congress, Jones said Monday.
SUPREME COURT AND COURT OF APPEALS
Arkansas Supreme Court Justice Barbara Webb filed Monday to run for the chief justice post, Position 1.
She said she wanted to be the first candidate to file for chief justice because "I just think it is important to show leadership and to also put my name out in front of the public as soon as I can as an official candidate."
The other announced candidates for the chief justice position, currently held by Dan Kemp, include Justices Karen Baker and Rhonda Wood and attorney Jay Martin. Kemp has said he plans to retire at the end of his term.
Circuit Judge Carlton Jones of Texarkana filed Monday to run for the Position 2 seat on the state Supreme Court, which was held by Robin Wynne, who died in office earlier this year.
In July, Republican Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders appointed former U.S. Attorney and Republican Party of Arkansas Chairman Cody Hiland to fill the vacancy and serve until 2025.
The other announced candidate for the Position 2 seat is state Supreme Court Justice Courtney Hudson, who serves in Position 3. Hudson has said she is running for Wynne's spot in the court because it would allow her to serve longer before retirement.
Supreme Court Justice Shawn Womack on Monday filed for reelection to his Position 5 post on the state Supreme Court.
Two spots on the Arkansas Court of Appeals are up for election in 2024.
Circuit Judge Casey Tucker and attorney Molly McNulty on Monday filed for the Arkansas Court of Appeals District 6, Position 1 post, joining attorney Pam Hathaway, who qualified through petition to run for the post. The post is held by Judge Rita Gruber, who has announced her decision to retire.
State Court of Appeals Judge Waymond M. Brown qualified through petition for his reelection bid to the District 7 post on the state Court of Appeals.
Thurston, the secretary of state, was the first candidate to file his paperwork Monday at the state Capitol.
The East End Republican filed to seek election as state treasurer in 2024 to serve the final two years of the four-year term to which fellow Republican and late state Treasurer Mark Lowery was elected in the 2022 general election. In August, Sanders appointed former state Department of Finance and Administration Secretary Larry Walther to serve as state treasurer until 2025.
Thurston, who served as the state's land commissioner from 2011-2019 and secretary of state since 2019, said he is running for state treasurer next year because "with the unexpected passing of Mark Lowery it forced me personally to think about what I would be doing next."
Thurston said he doesn't know whether he'll have an opponent for state treasurer.
For the General Assembly, all 100 House seats and 18 Senate seats will be on the ballot in 2024. Currently, Republicans hold 82 of the state House of Representative's 100 seats and 29 of the state Senate's 35 spots in the largest majority the party has had since Reconstruction.
State Reps. Charlene Fite, R-Van Buren; Josh Miller, R-Heber Springs; Lanny Fite, R-Benton; Delia Haak, R-Centerton; Mark Berry, R-Ozark; Milton Nicks, D-Marion; Jack Fortner, R-Yellville; Jamie Scott, D-North Little Rock; and Deborah Ferguson, D-West Memphis, have said they will not seek reelection to their House seats. State Sen. Linda Chesterfield, D-Little Rock, also announced she will not seek reelection with Scott announcing a bid for Chesterfield's Senate seat.
Three candidates seeking to replace Lanny Fite in House District 83 filed Monday. They are Republicans Ken Yang and Paul Childress and Democrat Teresa Dannaway.
State Rep. Cindy Crawford, R-Fort Smith, and GOP challenger Jeff Burks filed Monday for the House District 51 seat. Democrat Jane Udouj-Kutchka of Fort Smith also filed to run for the House District 51 seat.
At least two House Democratic incumbents, Fred Allen and Joy Springer, both of Little Rock, will face primary challenges after filing for reelection Monday.
Grant Smith of Little Rock filed to challenge Allen, a seven-term incumbent from House District 75, for the second consecutive election.
Ryan Davis, director of Children International at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, filed Monday to run against Springer for the House District 76 seat.
"It's important to me that we have someone who can bring some resources to bear back to District 76," Davis said. "And with all due respect to the incumbent, I believe that we can do better."
Democrat Tom Nowlin and Republican Jerry Holmes filed Monday to run for House District 41, after Miller announced he would not seek reelection.
Former state Republican Rep. Brandt Smith of Jonesboro filed his paperwork to run for the House District 32 seat held Republican Jack Ladyman of Jonesboro, who also filed his paperwork to run for reelection.
"There's a lot of things that we need to do to strengthen current laws as it relates to our pro-life issues, Second Amendment issues and that kind of thing," Smith said.