Arkansas Lt. Gov. Mark Darr (R), it is being reported, will soon announce his candidacy to challenge incumbent Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor next year. Darr was also thought of as a potential gubernatorial candidate, but with former Rep. Asa Hutchinson already in that race, it appears that Darr will opt for the Senate.
The move would give Arkansas Republicans two strong candidates for the two top statewide contests. The governor’s campaign will be an open-seat campaign, as incumbent Mike Beebe (D) is ineligible to seek a third term.
Sen. Pryor was first elected in 2002. He was re-elected in 2008 without any opposition. His father, David Pryor, served three terms in the Senate from 1979-1997, after six years in the US House and one term as governor of Arkansas.
Natural State voters trended heavily to the GOP in the 2012 election, with the party’s candidates taking all four of the state’s congressional districts. Still, considering Sen. Pryor’s personal popularity, unseating him in 2014 would qualify as a major upset.
Almost all of the early SC-1 special election campaign action has been on the Republican side, especially with former Gov. Mark Sanford entering the field of candidates. But now, two Democrats, including the sister of comedian Stephen Colbert, are joining the political fray.
Elizabeth Colbert-Busch, who is an education executive at Clemson University’s Charleston affiliate campus, announced that she will become a special election candidate. Businessman Martin Skelly, who said he plans to spend at least $250,000 of his own money on the campaign, also declared his candidacy.
The party primaries are scheduled for March 19, with an April 2 run-off. If only Colbert-Busch and Skelly compete on the Democratic side, then there will be no need for a secondary election as one of the two will capture an outright majority of the party primary vote. The special general election is scheduled for May 7, and the eventual Republican nominee will be rated as a heavy favorite. The 1st Congressional District is vacant because its former office holder, Tim Scott (R), was appointed to the Senate in order to replace Sen. Jim DeMint (R), who resigned.