Primary runoff preview: Arkansas attorney general election, 2014

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June 9, 2014


By Maresa Strano

Little Rock, Arkansas: Two Little Rock lawyers will battle for the Republican nomination for Arkansas Attorney General in tomorrow's primary runoff election. The seat is open this cycle because current Democratic incumbent Attorney General Dustin McDaniel (D) is barred by term limits from seeking re-election. Leslie Rutledge and David Sterling, who received approximately 47 and 39 percent of the May 20 primary vote, respectively, will take part in a primary runoff on June 10. The runoff will settle what has turned into a bitter rivalry between the two candidates, each of whom campaigned heavily on their qualifications for the role of Arkansas' chief law enforcement officer.

Including attorney general, seven state executive positions are up for election in 2014 in the state of Arkansas. Among the seven, a mere two incumbents, Secretary of State Mark Martin (R) and State Lands Commissioner John Thurston (R), are running for re-election to their current posts this year.[1]

On May 20, 2014, Arkansas voters nominated candidates from six contested primary fields - five Republican and one Democratic - to earn a slot on the November 4 general election ballot. Both Republican and Democratic primaries were held for the governor's race, plus Republican primaries for lieutenant governor, attorney general, treasurer and auditor. After the votes were counted, only the GOP nominee for attorney general remained in question. Of the three candidates, one, Patricia Nation, was eliminated immediately, but neither of the remaining pair managed to garner enough votes to automatically advance to the general election.

The winner of tomorrow's primary runoff will face unopposed Democratic nominee Nate Steel and Libertarian Aaron Cash in November for the chance to replace McDaniel.

Arkansas is one of 14 states that uses an open primary system, in which registered voters do not have to be members of a party to vote in that party's primary.[2][3][4]

In Arkansas, all polling places will be open from 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Election Day. When the polls close, if you are in line, you will be permitted to vote.[5]

Arkansas Attorney General
See also: Arkansas attorney general election, 2014

The general election ballot is still up in the air thanks to last month's tight Republican attorney general primary. Leslie Rutledge and David Sterling will compete in a runoff on June 10 for the right to face unopposed Democratic nominee Nate Steel and Libertarian Aaron Cash in November.

General Election Candidates

Lost in the Primary Runoff

Lost in the Primary

May 20 Primary Election Results
  • Republican primary
Arkansas Attorney General, Republican Primary, 2014
Candidate Vote % Votes
Green check mark transparent.pngLeslie Rutledge 47.2% 79,347
Green check mark transparent.pngDavid Sterling 39.1% 65,733
Patricia Nation 13.7% 22,986
Total Votes 168,066
Election Results Via:Arkansas Secretary of State.

Race background

In December 2013, Arkansas' attorney general race was given its second consecutive "toss-up" rating by Governing. In March 2013, the open seat - held by term limited Democrat Dustin McDaniel - was first rated as "vulnerable" to partisan switch in the 2014 elections based on predictions that McDaniel's personal issues would cause a substantial number of fed-up voters to reevaluate their usual choosing methods as well as the merits of electing a Republican attorney general next time around. Shortly before the March rating came out, McDaniel was exposed for philandering for the second time in his attorney general tenure. The scandal forced him to end a long-anticipated campaign for the governor's office, which is open in 2014 due to incumbent Gov. Mike Beebe having also reached his term limit.[12]

Five candidates - three Republican, one Democratic and one Libertarian - filed for the election to replace McDaniel. A primary was held on May 20 to decide which of the three Republican hopefuls would move on to the general election with the party's nomination. It was a close contest between the race's two Little Rock lawyers, Leslie Rutledge and David Sterling, neither of whom received a sufficient share of the vote to avoid a primary runoff election on June 10.

Rutledge and Sterling both ran on their legal resumes and previous efforts made on behalf of the Republican Party and its interests. Rutledge has claimed she is the more qualified candidate because she is “the only one with experience fighting crime, the only one with experience fighting the overreaching federal government.” Sterling, meanwhile, claims his federal court experience makes him the superior candidate, touting his ample courtroom experience. “The AG’s office is essentially Arkansas’ largest law firm, and I think that the voters want a serious and responsible and experienced attorney leading that law firm,” Sterling said.[13]

Rutledge ultimately defeated Sterling in the Republican primary runoff, earning over 58 percent of the vote.[14] She will face unopposed Democratic nominee Nate Steel and Libertarian Aaron Cash in the general election on November 4.

See also

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