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Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders has placed her thumb on the scale of this year’s Republican primary by endorsing Jason Nazarenko of Cotter for Arkansas House District 4 over Tink Albright of Gassville.
The endorsement came Monday evening on the X (Formerly Twitter) social media platform.
“I’m proud to support Jason Nazarenko for Arkansas State House District 4,” said Sanders. “As a blackhawk pilot for the Army’s elite 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, Jason could have lived anywhere in the country. He chose to come back home to Cotter where he continues to serve his community.”
“As a state representative, Jason will protect our 2nd Amendment rights, safeguard religious liberty, and join me in making Arkansas the best place to live, work, and raise a family. I look forward to working with him in the State Capitol,” said Sanders.
I'm proud to support Jason Nazarenko for Arkansas State House District 4.— Sarah Huckabee Sanders (@SarahHuckabee) February 6, 2024
As a blackhawk pilot for the Army's elite 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, Jason could have lived anywhere in the country. He chose to come back home to Cotter where he continues to serve his… https://t.co/J9XJrd8SiJ
Sanders signaled that an official endorsement of Nazarenko was coming after her Political Action Committee, Team Sarah Huckabee Sanders (SHS), made a financial contribution of $3,300 to his legislative campaign in December.
“I’m very disappointed she decided to get involved in a local race,” said Albright in response to the endorsement. “And although she has done some good things, I believe state representation on the district level should stay local. I’m running to do the right thing and be a voice of reason for our area by listening to the people of District 4, not Little Rock, just as I’ve done as a quorum court member for Baxter County the last nine years.”
Albright serves on Baxter County’s Quorum Court representing District 6 which covers Gassville and the West side of Mountain Home. She is one of the more fiscally responsible and conservative members of the court, having been one of the few members who attempted to vote down the expenditure of taxpayer funds in 2022 to the Mountain Home Saddle Club, a private organization, for renovations of their bleachers and bathroom facilities. The action was later found to have violated Arkansas’ state constitution by the Legislative Audit Committee.
Sanders’ PAC also contributed financially to four other Arkansas State House candidates in December, all of whom are competing in Republican primaries.
The ambitious Governor appears to be priming the pump before the legislative session this year after many Republicans broke rank during the debacle of the attempted overhaul of the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act that proposed blanket obfuscation of the executive branch.
The move prompted several Arkansans on both sides of the aisle to form a committee and draft a ballot measure to enshrine the Arkansas FOIA into the state’s constitution. The ballot measure was finally approved recently after a back-and-forth with Attorney General Tim Griffin.
While an endorsement from the top governing official in the state is a big deal that many voters–especially Nazarenko fans– are enthusiastic about, not everyone is enamored by the Governor’s endorsement.
“My concern with Jason is his partnership with Governor Sanders. The last thing I want is a local politician regurgitating her rhetoric, we’ve already got one of those,” said one woman on social media who appears to reside in Yellville.
Nazarenko keeps filling the coffers
At the close of the December reporting period, Albright raised a cumulative total of $31,150 which includes $30,000 of her own money.
Meanwhile, Nazarenko has already filed his January campaign finance report and has raised a cumulative total of $44,810, which includes $15,500 of his own money.
Last month he amassed another $10,450, of which at least $6,000 has come from PACs and other organizations such as the Poultry Federation, the Arkansas Trucking Association, the Arkansas Bankers Association, and the Arkansas Health Care Public Affairs Committee, among others.
State Senator Scott Flippo and Arkansas Game and Fish Commissioner Rob Finley also made personal financial contributions, signaling their endorsement of Nazarenko as well.
Albright hasn’t filed for January’s reporting period on campaign finance yet which is due on Feb. 22.
Catch the candidates in person
Voters looking to meet and greet with both candidates and understand where they land on issues will have several opportunities before early voting begins.
The Marion County Republican Committee is hosting a panel and meet and greet of candidates tonight from 6:00 pm to 7:00 pm at the Marion County Annex Courtroom located at 105 S. Berry St. in Yellville. The venue is diagonally opposite of the courthouse.
On Feb. 12, another panel featuring both candidates will be hosted in Oakland at the Oakland Community Center located at 6093 Oakland Rd. from 6:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.
KTLO will also be hosting its usual panel for candidates, including one for AR House District 4. Nazarenko and Albright will face off live on air on Feb. 14 at 9:00 am on the radio waves at 97.9 FM. Listeners may submit questions to [email protected] until Feb. 9. Be sure to note which candidate or race the question is for.