Little Rock — The Arkansas race for governor continues to heat up with the announcement of a new Democratic candidate; Chris Jones, a former executive director at Winrock International's Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub.
Jones, 44, stepped down in May from his position at Winrock International and is the fourth Democrat to announce a campaign for Arkansas governor. Baptist Minister Anthony Bland, political newcomer James “Rus” Russell and businesswoman Supha Xayprasith-Mays are also vying for the nomination. Libertarian Ricky Dale Harrington has also said he will run.
Former White House Spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the daughter of former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, is running against state Attorney General Leslie Rutledge for the Republican nomination. A recent poll found that Arkansas voters have a more favorable opinion of Sanders than Rutledge.
Roby Brock of Talk Business and Politics said the race will come down to in terms of popularity is where the candidates align politically, and where their partisanship lies. He said it should be a “wide open primary.” Brock believes Jones will be a leading choice on the Democratic side of the race.
“Chris Jones getting into the Arkansas governor’s race is a big deal for Democrats,” Brock said. “He’s a very viable candidate. He comes with a reputation of being very well-educated, he’s led a lot of entrepreneurship in Arkansas.”
However, Brock said all of the Democratic candidates have an uphill battle against the two Republican candidates.
“This is really, right now, the Republican nominees' race to lose,” Brock said. “Arkansas is a ruby red Republican state so between Sarah Sanders and Leslie Rutledge, the attorney general, whoever wins that primary is going to be the leading candidate to be governor.”
Brock said all of the Democratic candidates are having to start from the bottom and work their way up.
“None of them are experienced, none of them have run races before, none of them have come to the table with any kind of high amount of name ID, so they’re really going to be starting from the ground zero on this,” Brock said.
Although Arkansas has never had a female governor, Brock believes gender won’t be an issue. He said there is a chance for a democratic candidate to win, but it won’t be easy.
“There will have to be some stars to align for the Democrats to win in 2022 in the Arkansas governor’s race, this state leans very Republican,” Brock said.