Biden, Trump qualify for Arkansas ballot as filing period for 2024 election kicks off

President Joe Biden delivers the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress at the U.S. Capitol, Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2023, in Washington, as Vice President Kamala Harris and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy of Calif., applaud. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, Pool)

President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump qualified for the Arkansas ballot on Monday as the filing period for next year’s election in the state kicked off.

Dozens of candidates filled the state Capitol rotunda to make their bids official for the state’s primary and nonpartisan judicial elections, which will be held on March 5. The filing period ends Nov. 14.

Representatives for Biden and Trump’s campaigns, along with ones representing Republican hopefuls Vivek Ramaswamy, Ron DeSantis and Nikki Haley, filed paperwork. Former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who launched his bid in April, is expected to file his paperwork in person but has not said when.

Republican Secretary of State John Thurston was the first to file, making his candidacy for state treasurer official. Thurston is running to complete the two years left on the term of Treasurer Mark Lowery, who died in July.

“This will be more than likely my last opportunity to be a part of the filing process and be over this, and I just wanted to be the first one and be available for the rest of this week as the process continues,” Thurston told reporters.

Republicans hold all statewide and federal offices in Arkansas, and Trump easily won the state in the 2016 and 2020 presidential elections.

Democrats head into the election hoping to break Republicans’ hold on the Legislature. The GOP holds 82 of the 100 seats in the House and 29 of the 35 seats in the Senate. All 100 House seats and 18 Senate seats are up next year.

“I think our goal remains the same as it’s always been,” Democratic Party Chairman Grant Tennille said. “We’ve got to break the legislative supermajority, we just have to.”

Republicans believe they could pick up more seats next year.

“In those supermajority numbers, our first goal is to make sure our incumbents or incumbent held seats … have the resources they need at filing to still have those seats when filing is done,” Republican Party of Arkansas Executive Director Seth Mays said. “The other prong of course is winning seats that aren’t held by Republicans.”

Three Democrats filed to run for U.S. House seats held by Republicans. They include Rodney Govens, who is running for the 1st District seat held by Rep. Rick Crawford; Marcus Jones, who is running for the 2nd District seat held by Rep. French Hill; and Caitlin Draper, who is running for the 3rd District seat held by Steve Womack.

No Democrat has announced plans to run against Rep. Bruce Westerman in the 4th Congressional District. Representatives of Hill and Westerman’s campaign filed paperwork Monday.

The March election will also feature a crowded race for chief justice, with Justices Karen Baker, Barbara Webb and Rhonda Wood announcing bids for the seat. Former state Rep. Jay Martin has also said he’s running for the seat. Webb was the first judicial candidate to file on Monday, though other judicial candidates had filed earlier by submitting petitions.

Two other seats are up next year for the state Supreme Court, which has been targeted by outside conservative groups over the past several elections.