Rubio Announces 28 Arkansas Legislators Backing Presidential Bid

Feb 16, 2016

Arkansas state Sen. Bart Hester (at the podium) announces the state leadership team for Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio.
Credit Jacob Kauffman / KUAR News

Republican presidential contender Marco Rubio’s campaign on Tuesday announced the support of 28 Arkansas legislators including several in leadership positions. Some had previously pledged support with about a dozen newly declared backers. State Senate President Jonathan Dismang was among those at the state Capitol offering his endorsement for the first time. Dismang said the U.S. Senator from Florida is a unifying force.

“I think the party is divided,” said Dismang. “It’s important that we have someone that the majority of folks can get around. I think Rubio’s that guy.”

U.S. Representatives Rick Crawford and Steve Womack and Lieutenant Governor Tim Griffin declared their support for Rubio after former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee exited the race following the Iowa caucus.

Governor Asa Hutchinson, U.S. Senator John Boozman, and U.S. Reps. French Hill and Bruce Westerman previously backed Huckabee and are still undeclared. Senator Tom Cotton has not offered an endorsement at any point in the primary.

Two of the governor’s nephews, Jim Hendren and Jeremy Hutchinson, are behind Rubio’s bid for the White House. Senate Majority Leader Hendren said it’s time to rally behind a single GOP candidate.

“As I looked at all of the candidates that were running, there was only that is talking seriously about national security. Only one who is not pandering to crowds and saying things to drive up poll numbers but is serious about bringing strength back to national defense and being able to wage a realistic, reasonable war to defeat the enemies that we face,” said Hendren who serves in the Air Force.

Rubio has not campaigned in Arkansas but the state chair of his Arkansas team, State Senator Bart Hester of Cave Springs, said is confident the state will be visited before March1.Ted Cruz, Donald Trump, and Ben Carson have made campaign stops in Arkansas.

A poll conducted by Talk Business & Politics earlier this month had Rubio tied for second in the March 1 Arkansas Republican primary: Cruz (27%), Rubio (23%), Trump (23%), Carson (11%), Don’t Know (6%), John Kasich (4%), the now-departed Carly Fiorina (4%), Jeb Bush (1%), and the also-exited Chris Christie (1%).

State Sen. Hester said he expects Rubio’s campaign to gain more ground as the contest nears. Hester pointed to the closing statement delivered by Rubio at the CBS South Carolina debate.

“He continued to pound home the message of family. That resonates in rural Arkansas. He continued to be very clear with the position that god determines the definition of marriage between one man and one woman,” said Hester. “He drove home the message that abortion is something Americans should not stand for and he will not stand for as a president.”

U.S. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas has the backing of Secretary of State Mark Martin, State Rep. Bob Ballinger and State Sen. Jason Rapert among about 10 legislators. KUAR is not aware of any state lawmakers that have declared support for Donald Trump or Ben Carson. There are 135 state legislators.

Rubio's list of Arkansas legislative support:

Marco's Arkansas State Chairman:

State Senator Bart Hester

Marco's Arkansas Leadership Team:

Senate President Jonathan Dismang

Senate Majority Leader Jim Hendren

State Senator Missy Irvin

State Senator Greg Standridge

State Senator John Cooper

State Senator Jeremy Hutchinson

House Majority Leader Ken Bragg

House Majority Whip Jim Dotson

State Rep. Justin Boyd

State Rep. Charlie Collins

State Rep. Jana Della Rosa

State Rep. Lanny Fite

State Rep. Mark Lowery

State Rep. Laurie Rushing

State Rep. DeAnn Vaught

State Rep. Micah Neal

State Rep. Prissy Hickerson

State Rep. Ken Henderson

State Rep. Nate Bell

State Rep. Dan Douglas

State Rep. Mickey Gates

State Rep. Charlene Fite

State Rep. Karilyn Brown

State Rep. David Meeks

State Rep. Andy Davis

State Rep. Grant Hodges

State Rep. Gary Deffenbaugh