By ANDREW DeMILLO – Associated Press

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) – Former White House press secretary Sarah Sanders and four Democrats hoping to challenge her for governor of Arkansas made their candidacies official Tuesday, as the week-long filing period to run in the state elections has begun.

Sanders, a Republican who has been running since last year and has more than $7 million in the bank for her candidacy, was among dozens of candidates who showed up on Capitol Hill to fill out paperwork to run in the presidential race. state and federal. Sanders was accompanied by her family, including former Governor Mike Huckabee.

Speaking to reporters after the filing, Sanders said she wanted to phase out state income tax and said she thought it could be paid for by reducing the size of state government. . Last year, lawmakers approved a massive package of tax cuts that will ultimately cost the state $500 million.

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“There’s not one thing that’s going to let us do that,” Sanders said. “We have to do it responsibly and we have to do it slowly. It will not be an overnight process.

Sanders declined to comment on whether lawmakers should pursue an abortion ban mirrored by restrictive Texas law, but hailed Arkansas as “the most pro-life state in the country.” Efforts to enact a Texas-style ban have stalled in the state legislature, with abortion opponents divided on whether to take such a step amid a key decision on abortion from the Supreme Court of the United States is approaching.

Democrats face an uphill battle in Arkansas, where Republicans hold a majority of both houses of the Legislature, all of the state’s offices and all of its congressional delegation seats. Chris Jones, a Democrat who filed for governor, said he thinks a key would be to engage voters who participate and noted his bottom ranking in voter turnout and registration.

“We are a non-voting state. We’re not a solidly red state,” Jones, the former executive director of the Arkansas Regional Innovation Center, told reporters before the filing. “There’s a million people who could have voted who didn’t vote last cycle.”

Another Democrat who filed on Tuesday, former state Rep. Jay Martin, pitched himself as a more conservative option and his supporters held up signs reading ‘pro-life democrat’ as he lined up to file.

“Of course, Roe v. Wade is the law of the land, but if it’s overturned, we’ll definitely pass legislation to limit abortion in Arkansas,” Martin said, referring to the 1973 Land case that legalized abortion nationwide.

James “Rus” Russell and Supha Xayprasith-Mays are other Democratic gubernatorial candidates who filed on Tuesday. Doc Washburn, a former radio host and podcaster, said he would seek the Republican nomination but did not file Tuesday.

Elvis D. Presley, who plays shows as late rock legend Elvis A. Presley, has filed as the write-in candidate for governor. Presley ran unsuccessfully for several offices in Arkansas over the years, including Congress. Libertarian candidate Ricky Dale Harrington is also running for governor.

Republican Governor Asa Hutchinson, who was first elected in 2014, is not eligible for re-election this year.

Arkansas’ election season also includes several crowded and heated GOP primaries. State Sen. Jason Rapert, former state GOP Chairman Doyle Webb and state surgeon general Dr. Greg Bledsoe filed paperwork to run for lieutenant governor. Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, who quit the gubernatorial race to run for lieutenant governor, is expected to file her case later this week. Kelly Krout, the only Democrat to announce a bid for the job, filed on Tuesday.

Jake Bequette, a former NFL and Razorback football player, filed paperwork to challenge Boozman in the May primary. Boozman is expected to file later this week. Natalie James is running for the Democratic nomination.

All 100 House seats and 35 Senate seats will also be on the ballot this year due to redistricting, and three state Supreme Court seats will be up.

This story has been corrected to show that Jay Martin is a former state representative.

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