LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Many pundits felt when Sarah Huckabee Sanders entered the governor’s race it would only be a matter of time that other candidates would naturally bow out, especially after campaign and polling numbers began coming out.
On Tuesday, current Attorney General Leslie Rutledge said she was exiting the governor’s race to concentrate on a lieutenant governor run instead.
“I wasn’t surprised, in fact, it was the move that made the most sense for her after Sarah Huckabee Sanders entered the race for governor,” Democratic strategist Jessica Deloach said.
Rutledge is now the sixth republican candidate to get in the race. Republican strategist Bill Vickery says she is now the biggest figure in the race.
“It completely changes the landscape of the lieutenant governor’s race,” Vickery said.
Other candidates have reacted to Rutledge entering the fray. State Senator Jason Rapert – who was the first to announce for lieutenant governor – said he has been supported by Mike Huckabee and has not attacked the now only Republican candidate for governor.
“Taking jabs and undermining Sarah Huckabee Sanders. I have the relationships I think that will be critical in assisting Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders,” Rapert said.
Washington County Judge Joseph Wood had a very welcoming tone in a Facebook statement.
Chris Bequette tweeted that she quit the governor’s race and should not be expected to fight for Arkansans and he was staying in the LG race.
Both Dr. Greg Bledsoe and Doyle Webb issued statements pointing out Rutledge had made comments in the past about not wanting to run for lieutenant governor because she would “get bored”.
Strategists say those comments will probably not hurt Rutledge on the campaign trail.
“You reserve the right to change your mind. I don’t think that that will be a thing that haunts her,” Deloach said.
“It would be a big deal if there were a candidate with the financing to both make that a message, an attack message but to also promote themselves through their own messaging,” Vickery said.
Rutledge also enters the race with by far with the most money raised and Vickery said that should make her the current favorite to win the primary race.
“She’s a very popular figure, had raised a considerable amount of money already and you have to think she immediately becomes the heavy favorite inside the Republican primary,” Vickery explained.