Arkansas Candidates Already Preparing for 2014 Races

by Andrew DeMillo, The Associated Press  on Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2012 1:54 pm  

Democrat Attorney General Dustin McDaniel announced over the summer that he was running for governor and has already raised more than $1 million for his bid. But his race is likely to get crowded in the coming weeks.

LITTLE ROCK - The 2014 campaign for Arkansas' top offices had already begun before voters cast their ballots in this year's election. Now it's about to go into full swing.

With an open governor's race and Republicans eager to topple the state's only Democratic senator, candidates from both parties are already laying the groundwork for statewide and federal campaigns that are nearly two years away.

After an election where they won control of the state Legislature for the first time in 138 years, Republicans say they're hoping to build on that success with a sweep of the state's seven constitutional offices and by unseating Democratic U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor - who will be the only Democratic member of the state's congressional delegation. The other top prize will be the governor's office, with Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe leaving office in 2015 due to term limits.

"Our enthusiasm level is so high that we had some candidates for 2014 calling us and wanting to meet with us before the election of 2012," state Republican Party Chairman Doyle Webb said. "We said let's get through 2012 before we start looking at 2014."

Still recovering from the setbacks in this year's election, Democrats say they'll begin recruiting candidates in earnest for state and congressional races next year.

"We still have a much deeper bench than the other side for a ton of races," state Democratic Chairman Will Bond said.

The 2014 campaign was already under way last spring. Pryor, a two-term incumbent, announced in April that he would run for re-election. Attorney General Dustin McDaniel, a Democrat, announced over the summer that he was running for governor and has already raised more than $1 million for his bid.

Both of those races are likely to get more crowded in the coming weeks.

Former Congressman Asa Hutchinson said he's considering running for governor in 2014 and will likely announce a decision in January. Hutchinson, who ran unsuccessfully for governor in 2006, said it's a faster schedule than he'd like but noted that McDaniel has had a head start with his bid.

"From my personal perspective that's not what you want to do is to spend two years running for an office," Hutchinson said. "It's the nature of politics these days."

Hutchinson's candidacy could be the first of several on the GOP side. Sen. Johnny Key, R-Mountain Home and the incoming chairman of the Senate Education Committee, said he's considering a run but won't decide until after next year's session.

"The encouragement of others to seek that higher office has prodded me to at least give thought to it," he said.



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