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Arkansas governor's race: What we know about the 3 front-runners

Chris Jones, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, and Ricky Harrington Jr. are currently the front-runners for their respective parties. There are eight candidates in total.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — We’re just a few months away from the primary elections that will set the stage for the upcoming race for Arkansas governor. 

Current Governor Asa Hutchinson can't run for re-election due to term limits, but there’s a field of candidates working to take the job.

Right now, five Democrats, two Republicans, and one Libertarian are all vying to become the next governor of the Natural State.

We want to give you a chance to meet these candidates by the issues they'll govern on.

That's a lot of names to keep track of, so we looked at recent funding which shows Chris Jones, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, and Ricky Harrington Jr. as the front-runners in their respective parties.

RELATED: Sarah Huckabee Sanders leads by 10 in Arkansas governor race, poll finds

The other republican candidate is Doc Washburn. The other Democratic candidates are James Russell, Supha Xayprasith-Mays, Anthony Bland, and Jay Martin.

Over the next few weeks, we'll break down how each party's highest funded candidate says they'll run their office.

Tonight, we're getting to know the candidates and their priorities when it comes to Arkansas's economy and industry.

In a crowded race for the Democratic nomination, Chris Jones is currently the highest funded candidate. 

The Pine Bluff native is looking to bring his experience as a scientist into the political arena – staying close to the center.

"If you really want to, like, stick a label on me, you can stick ‘pragmatic’ on there. Pragmatic Democrat," Jones said.

Jones is working to refocus how issues like state spending and employment impact the individual Arkansan.

"Really I care about, as I mentioned, P, B, and J – preschool, broadband, and jobs— which is really education, infrastructure, and economic development," he added.

Jones said overall, he's aiming to take a closer look at how each dollar is spent to try and avoid further taxes.

When asked if there was anything Jones would mind cutting right now or anything he’s taking a closer look at, he responded, “It's hard to imagine the need for cutting budgets in the educational space."

Jones also said he still wants to see better support for pandemic resources, but with a more direct path to healthcare, something he's heard from frontline workers themselves.

"At the end of the day, what they said works is really providing the financial resources that they need, particularly in the areas that lack staff, that lack the support, but have the need," he explained.

On the Libertarian ticket, Ricky Dale Harrington Jr. is the sole candidate vying for the job. 

RELATED: Former Arkansas prison chaplain announces run for governor as Libertarian

You may remember his name from the 2020 US Senate race where he received more than 33% of the vote against Tom Cotton.

He's also running on a more practical platform, but he's less focused on change and more focused on maintaining the status quo.

"I'm a very pragmatic person. If it's not broke, don't fix it," Harrington said.

But he said he is looking to fix, or change, how the economy runs in Arkansas.

So, how would Harrington continue to push for growth in an industry with a worker shortage?

“We need to start taking a look at circular economies. And these are economies where our waste becomes the product and attracting companies," he explained.

His focus is on securing basic needs before the state's potential for growth. He's aiming to be an option for Arkansans who feel torn at the polls.

"I'm not beholden to any party. I'm beholden to them, the people of Arkansas, regardless of their party," Harrington said. "My path forward is to meet the people where they are."

And finally, the front-running Republican candidate in this race— Sarah Huckabee-Sanders.

We gave her campaign four months to do a sit-down interview, but they declined to talk to us, saying they did not have time to share her platform with viewers or have anything to contribute right now.

So we looked to the past events she's held to bring some insight on her plans if she gets the governor's job.

Huckabee-Sanders is the daughter and former staffer of past Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee and, more recently, served as White House Press Secretary to former President Donald Trump.

As she exclusively told us at her campaign kickoff event this summer, she wants to focus on developing the outdoor economy.

"I think our outdoor economy is a huge advantage for Arkansas. We call ourselves the Natural State for a reason, we need to go out and own that," she said.

She also hopes to create more skill-based education opportunities.

"I think we have to change the way we look at education... We need to focus on making sure that we're actually putting them on the path to prosperity,” she said. 

“So that when they either graduate from high school, whether it's graduating from a two-year program, a trade school, or a four-year university, they're ready to go out into the workforce."

This only scratches the surface as this series doesn't include the other candidates on the ballot. 

In the coming weeks, we'll continue to explain the candidates beliefs on social issues like abortion rights, as well as healthcare concerns like vaccination mandates.

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