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Crowded fields for upcoming local State Representative races


2024 candidates file for Democrat, Republican nominations in primary

By Ralph Hardin

We are less than four months away from the 2024 Arkansas Primary, set for Tuesday, March 4. With races ranging from local offices to the U.S. presidency, Crittenden County voters can expect to hear a lot of political discussion and debate this election season.

Two positions in particular have drawn a lot of interest among the local citizenry.

Both of the Arkansas House of Representative seats that include Crittenden County are up for grabs, as both incumbents have elected not to seek another term in 2024.

Within weeks of each other, State Rep. Milton Nicks (DMarion, Dist. 35) and State Rep. Deborah Ferguson (DWest Memphis, Dist. 63) both declared they would be stepping down at the end of their current terms.

With both seats coming open, a number of local current, former and aspiring politicians have filed to seek a seat in the Arkansas General Assembly.

The filing period for all candidates in the 2024 Preferential Primary and Nonpartizan Judicial Elections, as well as the School Board Elections, ended at noon on Tuesday, Nov. 14, and the field of candidates looking to fill the vacancies Nicks and Ferguson will leave come January 2025 is quite crowded.

Seeking the District 35 seat, which includes Marion, Earle and most of rural Crittenden County, are four Democratic candidates and two Republican candidates. For the Democrats, a pair of political veterans, former Marion City Councilwoman, Sherry Hollilman and Earle City Councilman Demetris Johnson Jr., are joined by Rayond Whiteside, who has recently taken up a leadership role in the Crittenden County Democratic party and political newcomer Jessie McGruder, the head football coach at Wonder Junior High School in West Memphis.

The Republican contenders in the District 35 seat are Quorum Court Justice Robert Thorne Jr. and Gary Tobar, who a familiar name on the ballot to local voters following sevral unsuccessful office bids going back to 2010.

In the race to replace Ferguson, there is only one Republican who filed for the primary, Tammi Northcutt Bell. Though bell has never run for public office, her status as the lone GOP filer means she will be on the November ballot next year for the Republicans.

Running for the Democrats are Hughes Mayor Lincoln Barnett, as well as Billy Thomen, who is both a County Constable and a member of the West Memphis School Board. Rounding out the field is businessman Fred Leonard, who ran for mayor of West Memphis in 2018 and has set the Arkansas House as his next foray into politics.

The winners of the March 5 primary next year will face off in the General Election on Nov. 5, 2024.

Register to Vote

Have you turned 18 years of age since the last election?

New to Crittenden County or even to the State of Arkansas? Just never got around to registering to vote? Now is the perfect time to go ahead and register to have your voice heard in the upcoming elections. To qualify to vote in Arkanas, you must:

• Be a U.S. citizen

• Be an Arkansas residet

• Be 18 or will turn 18 before March 5, 2024.

• Not be a convicted felon, or have you sentence discharged or pardoned.

• Not be presently judged as mentally incompetent as to your ability to vote.

To register to vote, you can visit the Crittenden County Clerk’s Office, visit the Marion or West Memphis Revenue Office, or download an application from the Arkansas Secretary of State’s web site.

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