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