Cotton contenders express optimism amidst ballot-access battle, name-recognition push

KNWA

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — As the country gets closer to November, some are under the impression that Sen. Tom Cotton (R) is running for reelection unopposed. That’s false, but his challengers face distinct uphill battles they hope to overcome by the time voters cast their ballots.

Dan Whitfield (I) has garnered a groundswell of support on social media, but the outcome may prove moot depending on whether he can get a victory in the legal system.

“The biggest question I get is, ‘Am I going to be on the ballot?’” Whitfield said.

Whitfield got about half the signatures necessary to appear on the ballot, but the Sec. of State didn’t change the ballot-access rules despite the ongoing pandemic hurting signature-gathering methods. A federal judge denied his injunction to get on the ballot, and despite an appeal, Whitfield faces the real possibility of not making the cut.

“Right now, we are still in the legal process,” Whitfield said. “We filed our brief on July 22. We are awaiting for the Sec. of State’s defense counsel, the attorney general to file their brief. Their deadline is August 21.”

Ricky Dale Harrington, Jr. (L) is already on the ballot. He hasn’t been able to amass widespread social media following like Whitfield, but there’s a distinct possibility that his name is the only one opposite Cotton. He challenged Whitfield’s claims that the federal judge ruled unfairly.

“We had the same federal judge,” Harrington said, referring to the legal battle to get Libertarians on the ballot. “She ruled in our favor. We had over 10,000 signatures. Mr. Whitfield did not gain the signatures that [were] required of him.”

Harrington also challenged Whitfield’s assertion that he’s getting closer to ballot access, something the Independent’s reiterated on Twitter in response to questions about his campaign.

“They have the right to appeal to the eighth circuit, of course, but to say that you’re one step closer to ballot access whenever you had the chance to get on and you did not is misleading voters,” Harrington said.

Harrington doesn’t have the same name recognition as a Whitfield or a Cotton, one of the most well-funded congresspeople in the South and a face for the next generation of the Republican Party. He acknowledged Whitfield’s capitalization on social media and said he can offer something for would-be voters of both candidates.

“If we can agree on the 60-70%, we shouldn’t let the 30% keep us from working together,” Harrington said.

Whitfield said he will run for governor in 2022 if he doesn’t get access to the ballot.

“If I have to run for governor to get some of this corruption out, then it is my duty as an American to do that,” Whitfield said.

Cotton’s campaign didn’t respond to a request for comment.

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