The 2022 election has already begun
The votes have yet to be counted in the 2020 elections, but in Arkansas, the 2022 campaign has already started.
Last week, the state’s two confirmed candidates for governor announced their campaign hauls for the past quarter, and they were impressive. Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin raised $894,970 and has raised nearly $1.7 million this year. Attorney General Leslie Rutledge raised $838,340, with about $41,000 coming from carryover funds. This was her first quarter to file a report.
Griffin and Rutledge have been circling each other for years as they compete to be the Republicans’ alpha dog at the state level. Meanwhile, they are keeping an eye on the race’s potential alpha elephant.
That would be Sarah Huckabee Sanders, daughter of former Gov. Mike Huckabee and, more importantly, President Trump’s former press secretary. She left the administration on very good terms with practically a Trump endorsement. If she runs for governor, she would have star power Griffin and Rutledge couldn’t match.
However, she hasn’t announced anything, and she has reasons not to run. She can make a lot of money off her time in the Trump administration, and she has young children whom she cited as reasons for leaving the White House pressure cooker. So we’ll see.
Also considering the race is state Sen. Jim Hendren, R-Gravette. He is a leader in the Arkansas Legislature and Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s nephew. However, he has made the career-killing mistake of trying to craft workable bipartisan solutions to challenging problems. He’d be a big underdog.
The 2022 election cycle will be the first where the state’s most important offices turn over since Republicans took control of Arkansas politics roughly a decade ago.
For Republicans, this has been the era of good feelings, when everyone has known who the alpha dogs have been. At the state level, it’s Gov. Asa Hutchinson, and at the national level it’s Sen. Tom Cotton. Trotting behind them have been the state’s other elected officials. Everyone has known their place.
But in 2022, the governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general will be term-limited. If any Republican wants one of those jobs over the next eight years, then 2022 is the year they will have to run. Potential candidates will have to make now-or-maybe-never decisions.
Meanwhile, other Republican elected officials, party stalwarts and campaign donors will have to pick sides. They’ll do so knowing politicians might forgive, but they don’t forget.
Members of Congress aren’t term limited by the Constitution, but other factors could lead to changes. Rep. French Hill in the 2nd District is in the fight of his political life against state Sen. Joyce Elliott, D-Little Rock. If he loses, Republican legislators will redraw congressional lines to try to ensure she serves only one term.
Regardless, some of the state’s Republican members of Congress could be nearing the end of their time in Washington. Sen. John Boozman is 69 years old and was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2000. Reps. Rick Crawford and Steve Womack were elected in 2010. Hill and Rep. Bruce Westerman were elected in 2014. Democrats likely will maintain control of the House and could win control of the Senate. Being out of power, especially in the House, is no fun. Eventually those flights to Washington get really old.
Boozman has already said he will run for re-election but has not made a formal announcement. I have no inside information, but don’t be surprised if at least one of the incumbents says it’s time to come home. If that happens, then potential candidates will have to make their own now-or-maybe-never decisions about running for Congress.
For much of the past 150 years, the Democrats were in control, and the real action was in their primary elections when they faced each other.
There hasn’t been much action in the Republican primaries these past eight years, but that will change this upcoming cycle. The first wave of the new Republican majority will start leaving office, and the competition to replace them will begin.
In fact, it’s already begun.