Arkansas Opens Filing Period for 2014 Election

by Andrew DeMillo, The Associated Press  on Monday, Feb. 24, 2014 4:33 pm  

LITTLE ROCK - Vowing to complete a takeover of the state's top offices after recent GOP gains, Republicans running for Arkansas governor and a U.S. Senate seat were among the dozens of candidates who made their bids official as the filing period opened Monday.

Republican Senate hopeful Tom Cotton joined gubernatorial rivals Asa Hutchinson and Curtis Coleman in filing paperwork at the state Capitol, the official kickoff of the 2014 campaign. By the end of the day, 136 people had filed for office.

The filing period for state and federal office in Arkansas ends at noon on March 3.

Republican Sen. Cecile Bledsoe, who is seeking re-election, was the first to have her paperwork stamped and filed by election officials.

"I'm running for my last term," said Bledsoe, R-Rogers, who has served in the Senate since 2009 and had served three terms in the House before that. "I've never been first before, so I thought I'd get here early and just be number one."

Each of the state's seven constitutional offices will be on the ballot this year, along with all 100 House seats, half the state Senate and Arkansas' four U.S. House seats. Most of the attention, however, is expected to focus on Cotton's bid to unseat Democratic U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor.

The two rivals and outside groups have already spent more than $7.5 million, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

"I think Arkansans are ready for a change," Cotton, a freshman congressman who represents south Arkansas, told reporters after filing. "They're ready to move the state in a new direction and turn around some of the damage that's been caused by the Obama agenda and get Arkansas back to work."

In a statement released by his campaign, Pryor criticized Cotton over votes on issues such as student loans and accused his rival of paying more attention to special interests than the state.

"I welcome Tom Cotton into this race, which is about who voters trust to put Arkansas first," Pryor said.

Hutchinson also cast his candidacy as a chance to move the state in a different direction. The former congressman won the party's gubernatorial nomination in 2006, but lost the general election to now-Gov. Mike Beebe. Beebe, a Democrat, can't run for re-election because of term limits.

"This election will set the stage for Arkansas' future," Hutchinson said. "Whenever you look at this state, I believe we are at a turning point as to whether we have a period of excellence in education and job creation and efficiency in state government, and that's the vision I want to bring to the state of Arkansas."



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