Clinton Campaign Opens Arkansas Office, Sanders Supporters Step Up Efforts

Feb 8, 2016

Democratic presidential candidates, Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders, smile during a break of the Democratic presidential debate on Jan. 17, 2016.
Credit Mic Smith/AP/www.NPR.org

Three weeks before Arkansas holds its presidential primary election, Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton’s campaign opened its state headquarters in Little Rock Monday. Located at 323 Center Street, officials say it will serve as a place to organize state campaign activities.

Despite having spent decades in Arkansas until the election of her husband Bill Clinton as president in 1992, the state isn't being looked at as an easy win, says Grant Tennille, former director of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, who is a Clinton supporter.

"We've always known this was going to be a competitive race and that we have to fight for every vote and we're not taking a single thing for granted, not even the support of Arkansans who have known of her longest and best," Tennille told KUAR News.

He also said opening the Arkansas office so close to the election date doesn't reflect a lack of prioritizing the state.

"I think really its been more about focusing the resources appropriately and where they're needed, and there has been a whole lot of activity obviously in Iowa and New Hampshire, and as the race moves to Nevada and then south, the campaign is gearing up to make its case to the people of this region," Tennille said.

But the campaign of Clinton's Democratic opponent, Sen. Bernie Sanders, says they've already had a state campaign headquarters open for a few months. Sanders' Arkansas state Director Sarah Scanlon believes their grassroots approach will give him an advantage

"We actually have groups all over the state that are doing phoning, talking to Arkansans to find out where they are in the presidential race and we're doing a lot of door-to-door activities starting up this week and then we're doing weekly meetings with all our groups, so a lot of activity," Scanlon said.

A Talk Business-Hendrix College poll released Sunday showed Clinton leading Sanders 57-to-25 percent, with 18 percent of respondents saying they didn’t know who they would support. But Scanlon says the survey of likely voters may not have reflected those who have traditionally dismissed politics.

"We're not depending on people who have actually voted in previous elections," she said. "We're talking to a lot of people who have never been involved in politics before because those are essentially the core people we're seeing come out and its been invigorating and exciting."

Early voting in Arkansas begins Feb. 15, with the primary election set for March 1.

An earlier version of this story called Tennille a member of Clinton's state campaign team, which is how he identified himself. Clinton's Arkansas press secretary Mary Rutherford Jennings clarified that he is not part of the staff, but is a supporter/surrogate and Democratic strategist.