FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA) — One Washington County primary race has taken an interesting turn, as one candidate is endorsing the other despite the possibility of victory.
Voters in Washington County will see Stephen Ritterbush on the ballot for Justice of the Peace, District 7.
“I felt like I was finally at a point where I had a good enough balance that I could finally take that step forward and do something where I could volunteer more of my time,” Ritterbush said.
In the Democratic primary against Janelle Smiley, Ritterbush said he’s confident he could win.
“In Arkansas, there’s a bias toward the male candidate. That is a reality,” Ritterbush said. “That means if nobody knows anything about Janelle’s background or my background, they’re more likely to vote for me.”
When Ritterbush started to really consider who was best for the job, his answer ran counter to what most politicians would say: his opponent.
“She has the skill set that will help the people of this county more so than what my skills are, than what I bring to the table,” Ritterbush said.
Instead of continuing to push for a victory, Ritterbush suspended active campaigning and began endorsing Smiley.
“An endorsement is different than a concession,” Smiley said. “A concession is saying, ‘you know what, I’ve lost. I’m out. See you later.’ What he’s saying is, ‘I’m in, but I don’t wanna win.'”
Smiley and Ritterbush devised a plan to make sure someone challenges Republican JP Sam Duncan for his seat.
“If per chance I lost, then he couldn’t just hand his votes over to me,” Smiley said.
Smiley’s glad to show unity during a time of political divisiveness, she said.
“I’m humbled,” Smiley said. “I’m surprised.”
Ritterbush hopes people are inspired by his decision, he said.
“I want people to see that we can work together across generations because that’s the only way that we’re gonna do what’s best for our state.”