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Arkansas Governor's race heats up with Democrat joining the mix, while one Republican exits

Lt. Governor Tim Griffin is no longer running for governor. Instead, he’s announced his campaign for attorney general.

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Some major changes in a key political race in Arkansas.

Lt. Governor Tim Griffin is no longer running for governor. Instead, he’s announced his campaign for attorney general.

A small business owner from Little Rock has come forward with his plans to seek the Democratic nomination for governor.

Just a few weeks after Sarah Huckabee Sanders threw her hat in the ring for Governor of Arkansas, Lt. Governor Tim Griffin drops out of the race and sets his cap for attorney general instead.

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In a statement, Griffin writes, “While I believe Arkansans are ready for my message of bold, conservative leadership, my conversations with friends and supports have persuaded me that at this time, I can do more for Arkansas in a different capacity.”

Leslie Rutledge, who’s also running for governor, has hit her term limit for running again for attorney general.

With Griffin’s experience as a former U.S. Congressman and U.S. Attorney, political experts say this pivot makes sense.

“Tim Griffin will come with a lot of name ID, a lot of goodwill with the Republican Party with this move to not challenge Sarah Huckabee sanders, and he will get to keep the $1.8 million that he raised for the governor’s race already," Roby Brock, with Talk Business & Politics, said. 

And finally, a challenger has emerged from the other side of the political aisle.

Political newcomer James ‘Rus’ Russell, a registered independent and small business owner from Little Rock, says he plans to seek the Democratic Party’s nomination.

In a statement, he says, "I'm running because of the failures I saw from our state leadership in the face of the Covid pandemic and the BLM movement. I'm running because our state deserves someone who is willing to stand up, take responsibility, and be truthful with our citizens."

Russell has not filed yet with the Democratic Party, and others may yet come forward in this race.

“There’s no official designated Democratic Party candidate," Michael John Gray, Chairman of the Democratic Party of Arkansas, said. "That’s what the primary process is for, but we welcome and are happy that people are showing interest."

There is still a long way to go in these races. The deadline to file is March of next year, and the primary is set for May of 2022.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders released a statement following Tim Griffin’s exit from the governor’s race saying, "Tim Griffin has been a strong voice for Arkansas and I look forward to working with him to unite our party and make our state better. I wish Tim and his family the very best."

Attorney General Leslie Rutledge also released a statement, “Tim griffin is a fierce advocate for Arkansas's conservative values—our military, law enforcement, and rule of law. Having been the attorney general for over 6 years, I personally know the importance of the role in which every decision I make impacts 3 million Arkansans daily and the enormous responsibility I have to proactively protect and defend our constitutional rights against the aggressive liberal agenda of the Biden-Harris administration, Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi. I wish him and his family the best.”