Donald Trump, Dr. Ben Carson, Hillary Clinton, Ted Cruz … these are just a few of top presidential candidates who have visited Arkansas so far in the quest for the 2016 nominations. All of this early, high-profile action in The Natural State is one of a host of changes that Arkansas voters will have to get used to in the coming years, including campaign calls during Christmas.
Legislation passed during the General Assembly’s special election in April moved Arkansas’ primary election from May to March, thus changing the start of the legislative fiscal session in 2016 from the second Monday in February to the second Wednesday in April. In addition, filing for elections was moved from March to November 2-9. The primary election will now be March 1 to coincide with other southern states that will have a primary election that same day, in what is being called “The SEC Primary.”
Visits by well-known presidential candidates is one more noticeable results of these election changes, but the real and meaningful effects will be felt in the months ahead.
Shopping, cooking, traveling and parties can make the holidays an exhausting time for anyone, but it may be about to get worse. Voters will soon be getting campaign mailers along with their Christmas cards and candidates may be forced to bundle up and hit the road with all of the holiday travelers.
Under the new rules, candidates in primary elections will be campaigning from November to March 1. This means we will see campaign messaging, advertising, and other pushes starting before Thanksgiving, lasting through the holiday season, and well into the winter. It also leaves a lot of unknowns in this election cycle. For example, we don’t know if the unpredictable and sometimes hazardous winter weather in Arkansas will have a negative effect on candidates connecting to citizens or if it will hinder voter turnout.
Decided by Few(er)
Another major unknown in this new election landscape is whether or not the new rules, combined with recent changes in term limit laws, will lead to primary elections becoming more important than the fall elections. If it does, it could mean a relative few will decide state house and senate seats. With issues like the “Private Option,” highways, corrections, and others looming, each seat becomes more and more important, depending on which side of the issues candidates stand. Other states are seeing increased emphasis on primary elections as party shifts have changed who controls the legislature over the past decade.
Learn to Run
At Arkansas Farm Bureau, our focus is on educating candidates about the importance of agriculture to the Arkansas economy and on issues that will impact agriculture in our state and throughout the nation. We want candidates of all parties to be ready and willing to champion Arkansas agriculture, so we must work to find new and creative ways to help them prepare to do just that.
Like voters, candidates will be feeling their way through a very different election landscape this year, and it could lead to unexpected challenges. Adding to this environment of confusion is the fact that more and more first-time or inexperienced candidates are joining the fray with each election cycle. To address this issue, Arkansas Farm Bureau and the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce are working together to offer a two-day seminar in October called “How to Win an Election.”
The goal of the seminar is to train individuals on all the major aspects of managing and running a political campaign in Arkansas. Organization, volunteers, fundraising, issue development and media relations are all important, and the workshop will provide basic information on these topics and some helpful tools to guide those with political aspirations. The seminar will also highlight the challenges of running for public office — from immense time commitment and family strains to fundraising.
So, if you’re a potential candidate or simply someone interested in Arkansas politics, the remainder of 2015 and early 2016 will be a very busy and interesting time. Join us for the “How to Win an Election” workshop to understand it all, and then get ready to hear the words: “Happy holidays and please vote for me.”