Sep 27, 2022 - Politics

Arkansas' Libertarian candidate Harrington calls for less government

A photo of Ricky Dale Harrington, Jr.

Photo courtesy of Ricky Dale Harrington Jr.

If elected the next governor of Arkansas, Libertarian candidate Ricky Dale Harrington Jr. told Axios he would encourage lawmakers to overturn some state laws that restrict personal choice.

  • The ban on abortion and blocking gender-affirming care for transgender youth were two measures he noted.

Why it matters: Arkansas' next governor will step into an office that will oversee spending of a record revenue surplus and statewide economic opportunity, juxtaposed with poor child wellbeing and health statistics, low education scores, climbing crime rates and a spotlight on the country's ongoing culture wars.

  • And whoever is voted in will be either the first woman or first Black man in the role.

Reality check: None of Arkansas' three gubernatorial candidates have previously served in an elected office.

What he's done: Harrington is a pastor at Mount Beulah Christian Church in Pine Bluff. Previously, he served as a chaplain at the Cummins prison unit, near Pine Bluff.

  • He ran as the Libertarian candidate against Sen. Tom Cotton in the 2020 general election and is president of the Libertarian Policy Institute's board of directors.
  • Harrington has an associate degree from Sunset International Bible Institute and a bachelor's in ministry from Harding University.

Where he stands: Harrington hasn't published his positions on the state's key issues. Generally, he wants less government and said the criminal justice system, health care and education are important to his campaign, though he didn't elaborate.

His position on a few key issues discussed with Axios follow:

  • On guns: Harrington calls himself a Second Amendment absolutist, meaning he supports the right to bear arms.
  • On abortion: "We need to come up with a better way to deal with this issue that respects the wishes of … bodily autonomy and the conscience issue of those that stand against it."
  • On same-sex marriage: "What consenting adults choose to do between themselves is none of my business."
  • On gender-affirming care for trans youth: "I believe people can decide for themselves, and it's better and just for them to decide for themselves."
  • On critical race theory: "Honestly, it just feels like manufactured controversy to me."

What he's saying: "I can't force someone to hold to my beliefs," he said. "I can maybe try to persuade them."

  • "I don't think it's right to force my religious beliefs on someone else," he added.

State of play: Opponent Chris Jones carried the Democratic primary in May, and Sarah Huckabee Sanders dominated the Republican primary.

  • A FiveThirtyEight analysis forecasts Sanders has greater than a 99% chance of winning. Harrington doesn't appear in the analysis.
  • If he loses this election, he told Axios he will turn to advocacy and activism in the areas of criminal justice, health care and education and likely give up on public office.

What's next: Harrington, Jones and Sanders will debate on Arkansas PBS Oct. 21. The event will air at 10am and 7pm.

  • The last day to register to vote is Oct. 11.
  • Early voting begins Oct. 24. Mail-in and absentee ballots are due on Nov. 4, and Election Day is Nov. 8

Of note: Axios has requested to interview all gubernatorial candidates. A profile of Jones was published last week. Sanders has not agreed to the same profile.


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