In 2022, many political offices in The Natural State will become the stage for political showdowns. With the Democratic and Republican primaries set for the spring, Arkansas Money & Politics provides this primer on the candidates and their positions going into the political season next fall.
As of Oct. 1, several executive positions in Arkansas are up for grabs, although many candidates are running unopposed. Republicans are predicted to sweep the board this election cycle. U.S. Sen. John Boozman (R) is expected to be reelected, and Republican Sarah Huckabee Sanders is expected to win the gubernatorial race to replace the term-limited Republican Asa Hutchinson.
Sarah Huckabee Sanders (R)
The frontrunner, Huckabee Sanders served as the press secretary in the administration of former President Donald Trump. Additionally, she is the daughter of former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee. Huckabee Sanders is the founding partner of Second Street Strategies in Little Rock, founding partner which consults on national political campaigns and campaigns for federal office in Arkansas.
Leslie Rutledge (R)
Rutledge is the current attorney general of Arkansas. A seventh-generation Arkansan, Rutledge was raised on a cattle farm in Independence County by her mother, an elementary school teacher, and her father, a lawyer. Rutledge started her legal career in the Arkansas Court of Appeals, clerking for Judge Josephine Hart. She is licensed to practice law in Arkansas, in Washington, D.C., and before the U.S. Supreme Court.
Ricky Dale Harrington Jr. (L)
Harrington originally is from Marshall, Texas, and earned a bachelor’s degree from Harding University in May 2012. Harrington entered the Arkansas political scene when he ran against Sen. Tom Cotton (R) in 2020. His professional experience is broad and includes working in the oil and gas industries, as a crisis prevention technician at a psychiatric hospital, as a missionary and in the correctional system.
Dr. Chris Jones (D)
Jones grew up in Pine Bluff and attended Morehouse College on a NASA Scholarship for physics and math. He went on to study at MIT, becoming a nuclear engineer and earning a Ph.D. in urban planning. After becoming ordained as a minister, Jones returned home to Arkansas and led the Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub.
Dr. Anthony Bland (D)
An Arkansas native, Bland graduated from J.A. Fair High School in Little Rock before receiving a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Arkansas Baptist College. Bland went on to earn his master’s and doctoral degrees from the University of Phoenix. At the age of 17, he was ordained as a Baptist minister. Bland has worked with organizations such as the Arkansas Foodbank, the American Heart Association and the American Red Cross. Additionally, Bland is the co-founder and CEO of the Dr. Anthony D. Bland Foundation Inc. (Dr. ADB Foundation). This organization assists in areas of education, performing arts, cancer research and literacy. Bland is a 32nd Degree Mason and a member of the Phi Beta Lambda chapter of Future Business Leaders of America.
James “Rus” Russell (D)
Russell has lived in the Central Arkansas area since 1997. A former pre-med biology and philosophy major, Russell previously worked for the Arkansas State Medical Board before moving to Arkansas Children’s Hospital as a medical staff coordinator. Russell and his wife are the owners of New Dawn Counseling, an outpatient mental health clinic in Little Rock. He has family roots in small town Arkansas with relatives from Lewisville and Stephens.
Supha Xayprasith-Mays (D)
At the age of 6, Xayprasith-Mays arrived in Northwest Arkansas from Southeast Asia with her family, as her widowed mother and three sisters had fled Communist oppression in their home country of Laos. Her mother took a job in the assembly lines at Tyson Foods to support her family. Xayprasith-Mays’ business career led her to the Walmart headquarters in Bentonville, where she eventually managed and supervised store operations. She began a career as an entrepreneur in multiple business sectors, such as publishing, business consulting, retail, restaurants, television networks, oil exploration in North Dakota and career empowerment seminars among several other business interests.
Dr. Greg Bledsoe (R)
A fourth-generation Arkansan who grew up in Rogers, Bledsoe has served as the state’s surgeon general since 2015 when Gov. Asa Hutchinson appointed him. As a physician still practicing in an emergency department, Bledsoe brings his clinical experience to advocate on behalf of patients and those who care for them. Twelve years ago, Bledsoe founded a small medical-education company called ExpedMed and has traveled internationally teaching expedition medicine. Additionally, Bledsoe has worked since 2018 as a strategic advisor to New Road Capital Partners in Northwest Arkansas, and in 2021 graduated with a Master of Business Administration (MBA) from the Sloan School of Management at MIT.
Jason Rapert (R)
Rapert is a member of the Arkansas State Senate, representing District 35, where he assumed office in 2011. Rapert earned his bachelor’s in political science and sociology from the University of Central Arkansas in 1994. He has worked as president and founder of Holy Ghost Ministries Inc.
Doyle Webb (R)
Webb is the former chair of the Republican Party of Arkansas. He was elected justice of the peace in Saline County in 1986 and served for three terms. Then in 1994, Webb was elected to the Arkansas State Senate as the representative for Saline and Perry counties. In the state Senate, Webb served as chair of the Joint Energy Committee and vice-chair of the State Agencies and Governmental Affairs Committee. In 2002, Webb accepted a position as chief of staff to former Lt. Gov. Winthrop Rockefeller. While Webb was the chair of the RPA, the state changed affiliation from blue to red for the first time in 140 years.
Joseph Wood (R)
Adopted from an orphanage and raised in a rough neighborhood in Chicago, Wood moved with his family to Washington County in 1997. He was elected the first Black Republican county judge in the state, and he is currently serving his second term as county judge in Washington County. Wood has also served as the Deputy Secretary of State for Business and Commercial Services and Education Divisions. Additionally, he was also the head of international recruiting and staffing at Walmart, as well as the district human resources director for Home Depot. He launched his own small business, a career consulting firm. Wood wrote the foreword to America’s 20/20 Vision: The Plan and authored two children’s books, Saving Joey and Adopting Joey, based on his true life story.
Chris Bequette (R)
Originally from Missouri, Bequette attended the University of Arkansas, where he played football and attended law school before graduating in 1989. He worked as an attorney in Little Rock before entering the financial services industry. Bequette is a financial advisor with 13 years of experience and has a license to practice law in Arkansas and Missouri. He is the uncle of Jake Bequette, who is running for U.S. Senate.
Tim Griffin (R)
Griffin is the current lieutenant governor of Arkansas. Before assuming the office, he served two terms as a Republican member of the U.S. House, representing Arkansas’ 2nd Congressional District from 2011-2015. During this time, he served as an assistant whip and deputy whip for the Republican majority. Before his stint in Congress, Griffin was a U.S. Attorney and served in the administration of President George W. Bush.
Jesse Gibson (D)
Gibson is a lifelong Arkansan and the son of two teachers. Born and raised in Lead Hill, Gibson earned his bachelor’s in business administration, cum laude, from the University of Arkansas, where he was a member and president of the Alpha Omicron Chapter of the Kappa Alpha Order. Gibson earned his J.D. with honors in 1999 from the UALR William H. Bowen School of Law, where he was a member of the Law Review. Gibson is licensed to practice law in Arkansas as well as U.S. Federal Courts. He founded The Gibson Law Firm, PLLC, which focuses primarily on personal injury, medical negligence and general civil litigation.
Leon Jones Jr. (R)
Jones was born and raised in Pine Bluff, where he taught high school before completing his law degree and opening his legal practice. Jones was the director of the Arkansas Department of Labor and served as a board member for the Arkansas Fair Housing Commission, the Arkansas Housing Trust Fund and the Fayetteville Housing Authority. Additionally, Jones worked on the 2014 campaign for Asa Hutchinson as the minority outreach coordinator.
John Boozman (R)
Incumbent Boozman was elected to a second term in the 2016 U.S. Senate election with 59.8 percent of the vote. In the general election, his opponents were Democrat Conner Eldridge, Libertarian Frank Gilbert and write-in candidate Jason Tate. Boozman began his political career in the U.S. House when he won a special election in 2001. He served in that position until he was elected to the Senate in 2010. Before his political career, Boozman worked as an optometrist. He is the ranking member of the Senate Agriculture Committee.
Jake Bequette (R)
Bequette is a graduate of Catholic High School in Little Rock and graduated from the University of Arkansas. There, he was a defensive end for the Arkansas Razorbacks football team. After graduating, Bequette joined the U.S. Army and became an Army Ranger, serving in Iraq to support Operation Inherent Resolve. Bequette’s candidacy for Senate is his debut in politics.
Jan Morgan (R)
Morgan is a national conservative commentator and an NRA, USCCA and State Police Certified Firearms Instructor. She entered the political scene in her gubernatorial race against Gov. Asa Hutchinson last cycle. Morgan and her husband own an indoor gun range/firearms training facility in Hot Springs. Since 2016, Morgan has served as the National Spokesperson of Citizens for Trump, one of the largest grassroots organizations in America supporting the former president. For 27 years, Morgan was an investigative TV journalist, working for several network affiliates, specializing in exposing waste, fraud and abuse in government. Morgan is the national founder of 2AWomen, a national organization of women dedicated to grassroots level efforts to confront and defeat any state-level attempt to restrict gun rights.
Dr. Heath Loftis (R)
Loftis was born in Little Rock. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Arkansas State University in 2006 and served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 2011 to 2017. Loftis earned a master’s degree from Central Arkansas Baptist Bible Institute in 2015 before receiving a doctorate from Slidell Baptist Seminary in 2020. Loftis’ career experience includes working as a pastor at Park Avenue Missionary Baptist Church. This is his first foray into Arkansas politics.
Michael Deel (R)
Deel has lived in Arkansas since 2006. A 38-year-old corporate analyst and political columnist originally from Virginia, Deel’s career experience includes working at ArcBest Corporation. He also worked as an operations manager for USA Truck Inc. from 2014 to 2016. If elected, Deel will be the first openly gay Republican Senator. Deel lives in Fort Smith with his husband.
Natalie James (D)
James grew up in Little Rock, raised by her mother, a school teacher, and her father, a small businessman and preacher. In 2015, James began her career as a Realtor. In 2020, Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott appointed her to the city of Little Rock’s Land Bank Commission. During the summer of 2020, Natalie played an active role in bridging the gap of communication between communities of color and local elected leaders. In 2021, the president of the Little Rock Branch of the NAACP appointed James to serve as chair of the Branch Political Action Committee.
Dan Whitfield (D)
Originally from California, Whitfield moved to Louisiana to work in the oilfields as an instrumentation technician before moving to Arkansas for a new career. An employee of J.B. Hunt, Whitfield is furthering his education at the University of Arkansas. Whitfield ran against incumbent U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton as an independent candidate in 2020 but did not meet the signature requirement to qualify for the ballot.
Secretary of State
John Thurston (R)
Before seeking elected office, the incumbent Thurston worked as a certified religious assistant in the Arkansas state prison system and on the staff of Agape Church in west Little Rock for 13 years. Thurston was the first Republican to be elected Arkansas Commissioner of State Lands since the position was made electable in 1874, and he is the current Secretary of State. He was also elected vice president of the Western States Land Commissioners Association in 2013.
State Rep. Mark Lowery (R)
Lowery is serving his fifth term in the Arkansas House. He represents District 39 which includes a portion of Pulaski County. For the 93rd General Assembly, Lowery served as chairperson of the House Insurance & Commerce Committee. He also serves on the Arkansas Legislative Council, the Joint Performance Review Committee and the House Education Committee.
Eddie Joe Williams (R)
Williams was first elected to the Arkansas Senate in 2010 and became the first elected GOP majority leader since Reconstruction. Williams served as chairman of the Senate Committee on State Agencies and Governmental Affairs. An Army and Air National Guard veteran, Williams sponsored legislation to construct a monument to Gold Star families on the State Capitol lawn. Most recently, he was selected by former President Trump to represent the White House on energy issues in 16 states, including Arkansas and Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Williams served three terms on the Cabot City Council before his election as mayor in 2007. He worked for more than 40 years for Union Pacific Railroad, where he retired as regional director of transportation.
Josh Price (D)
Price, a seventh-generation Arkansan, was born in southwest Arkansas to a small business owner and a nurse. He grew up watching his cousin, Gus Wingfield, serve Arkansas for more than 25 years as a state representative, state auditor and state treasurer. Price served as the sole Democrat election commissioner for Pulaski County, helping oversee elections in Arkansas’ largest county. In this role, Price expanded voter access by opening additional early voting locations, replacing 20-year-old voting machines and recruiting and training hundreds of poll workers during the pandemic. Price was the first Arkansan of Asian descent to serve in this position and was one of only five Asian-American government officials in Arkansas at the time.
Mathew Pitsch (R)
Pitsch serves as a state senator representing District 8. He was appointed Senate Majority Whip in 2020. Pitsch is the vice chair for the Senate’s Transportation, Technology, and Legislative Affairs Committee. In addition, he sits on the ALC-JBC Special Language committee, the Insurance and Commerce Committee, the Legislative Joint Auditing Committee and the Senate Efficiency committee. Elected to the state Senate in 2018, Pitsch previously served in the Arkansas House of Representatives from 2015 to 2018.
Dennis Milligan (R)
Milligan currently serves as Arkansas State Treasurer. He was first elected to the role in 2014 and was re-elected in 2018. In addition, he is serving as the national chair for the State Financial Officers Foundation in 2020-21. Milligan previously served as Saline County Circuit Clerk from 2011-2015. He is a successful small business owner who started his company, Water Treatment Services (WTS), in 1985. WTS expanded from Central Arkansas to serving customers in 17 states. Milligan is also a real estate developer and home builder.
Public Lands Commissioner
Tommy Land (R)
Land and his wife, Judy, raised their two children on a small family cattle farm in Heber Springs during Land’s 30-year career with Southwestern Bell. After retiring in 2004, Land established Heber Springs Communications, a small telecommunications business. In 2018, he was elected to his first term in office. Land now devotes his full attention to his duties as Commissioner of State Lands.