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Republican State Convention “Yes.” State Committee “No”

Why does the Republican Party of Arkansas sometimes make contrary decisions? To explain, we will use as an example a recent resolution considered by the Republican State Committee in which the committee’s decision was the opposite to a plank in the party’s platform. 

 This is an extended article so it would be wise to budget the time to read through it twice.

The Republican State Committee recently considered a resolution calling for closed primaries. The issue has been a hot topic, especially after the 2022 primary when Democrats urged fellow Democrats to cross over and vote in the Arkansas Republican Primary. Their purpose was to help less conservative Republican candidates win in the Republican primary. Arkansas wasn’t the only state where Democrats tried to influence a Republican primary. In some more competitive states, Democrats pumped a lot of money into the Republican primary to try to elect candidates the Democrats considered to be easier to beat or more closely aligned with Democrat values. 

The Arkansas Republican State Convention decided blocking Democrat influence in Republican primaries was important enough to amend the party platform to include the following statement. 

“In order to ensure the integrity of the preferential primary election process, Arkansas Republicans support closed primaries in our state.” 

Despite the platform, less than a year later the Republican State Committee voted against it.  

The State Committee’s rejection of the platform led some Republicans to wonder if the platform is just empty promises or if the party just can’t make up its mind.  It is neither of those things.  

The reason for opposite positions is the party has a bit of a split personality. No, not a mental disorder. The party has two distinct personalities because the party is led by two different groups with memberships chosen in very different ways. 


To understand the difference in personalities and perspectives of the State Convention and the State Committee, we must first look at how their memberships are selected and how that leads to opposing viewpoints on some issues. 

Delegates to the State Convention: All delegates to the State Convention are selected through the County Convention. Some counties are entitled to many State Convention delegates and other counties have fewer. The more populated counties (with a greater number of Republican voters) will have many more delegates than a small county. (See the notes for the criteria used to determine how many delegates a County Convention sends to the State Convention.)i  

It is important to note that Republican elected officials are not automatically delegates to the State Convention. If a Republican elected official wants to be a delegate to the State Convention, he or she must seek selection at the County Convention which is made up of those who filed for County Committee membership during the Republican primary.

State Committee Members: The largest group represented on the State Committee consists of Republican elected officials who are members of the U.S. Congress, state legislators, state constitutional officers, former Republican officials who were Governor, U.S. Senator, or U.S. Representatives. This is currently a very large number of potential voting members on the State Committee. Republicans have a supermajority of the 100 member Arkansas House of Representatives, a supermajority of the 35 member Arkansas Senate, all seven Arkansas constitutional offices, and all six members of Arkansas’ Congressional delegation. At one time there would have been only a few Republican officeholders across the state; but fortunately, with the great success of the Republican Party over the last couple of decades, the number of Republican elected officials have greatly increased. This success has changed the makeup of the State Committee to where elected officials are now the dominant group. 

Each county committee only has three members on the State Committee, which is in dramatic contrast to the State Convention where all delegates are chosen through county committee membership. 

The four congressional district committees also get a few members on the State Committee. (The membership of the district committees is primarily made up of members chosen by the county committees in the district.) 

Nine categories of allied Republican organizations, such as Young Republicans, have members on the State Committee. 

The remaining members of the State Committee are either State Committee officers (State Executive Committee) who are elected by the State Committee or who are appointed by the State Chair, who is one of the officers elected by the State Committee. 


For the most part, the State Convention and the State Committee work very well together to elect more and more Republicans at the local, state, and federal levels. But, the Republican governing bodies do not always see eye to eye on everything. The difference of opinions on closed primaries being one example. 

Before we talk about differences in the focus of the State Convention and the State Committee, we must explain these are generalizations and do not represent the focus of all members of either group. Plus, it must be remembered that there are Republicans who are members of both bodies.  

State Convention. In general, the delegates to the State Convention tend to place a bigger emphasis on the party platform than the overall membership of the State Committee. First, it is the State Convention that debates and passes the platform. Second, many county committees have spoken out on issues affirming specific planks of the platform, and their delegates to the State Convention are likely to be focused on the importance of following the platform. When county committees pass resolutions urging Republicans to follow a specific plank of the platform, it is because they see some Republicans ignoring the platform. By speaking for the platform on an issue, they are necessarily speaking against the actions of Republican officeholders who do not follow the platform. 

State Committee. With the State Committee having so many elected officials and so many officers selected by the State Committee, in general the State Committee is more focused on protecting and promoting anyone with an “R” beside their name. This means the platform often takes a back seat to achieving numbers – the number of votes cast in the primaries and the number of elected officials who have an “R” beside their name. This would indicate that it is more important to gain control than to exercise that control to implement the platform principles. 


Many county committees and some Congressional district committees are becoming defenders of the platform, as evidenced by their resolutions on various issues on which the platform speaks. A county committee that sees its role as including the implementation of the platform is likely to send more delegates to the convention who are defenders of the platform. 

Not all county committees or district committees speak up in defense of the platform, but a growing number do. Here are some examples: 

  • Washington County Committees defending the platform by speaking against passage of the internet sales tax. Other county committees joined them,ii 
  • Craighead County Committee, frustrated by blue results, passed a resolution urging its elected officials to start voting in a way consistent with the platform,iii 
  • Jackson County Committee defended the platform’s stand on 2nd Amendment Rights by speaking against red flag laws and other limitations despite some Republican officeholders wanting such limitations despite the 2nd Amendment. Other county committees joined Jackson County in adopting similar resolutions,iv 
  • 1st Congressional District Committee defended the platform on pro-life issues by chastising Republicans who voted to adjourn a legislative session to avoid having to consider an anti-abortion bill,v 
  • Independence and Izard County Committees passed a “not a recommended candidate” resolution directed at their incumbent Senator for his voting record that frequently ignored planks of the platform,vi and, 
  • Izard County Committee and several other county committees passed a “not recommended” resolution directed at former Governor Asa Hutchinson’s run for the US Presidency for actions at variance with the platform.vii 


Look back at the examples cited. In each one, the committee’s action also serves as praise of elected officials who follow the platform and criticism of those who ignore the platform. 

Here are two instances in which officers of the State Committee fought against county and district committees for speaking out. 

Example – 1st Congressional District Committee’s Abortion Video (2021) 

In December 2021, Governor Asa Hutchinson called a special session of the Arkansas General Assembly to deal with a few issues. Several Republican Senators and Representatives urged him to include an abortion issue. The legislature had passed a strong abortion law, but a federal judge had blocked the law. Meanwhile, the State of Texas passed a new abortion law that legal experts predicted would be upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court and would save many unborn children. Some legislators wanted to amend Arkansas’s law to be more defensible. Governor Hutchinson refused to include the abortion issue, but there was still one more avenue for the legislature to consider the bill. After the legislature finishes the Governor’s business, the legislature by two-thirds vote is allowed to consider their own legislation.  Some legislators proposed resolutions to allow the issue to be addressed. However, a majority of the legislature (which is predominately Republican) voted to adjourn without considering the issue.  

The 1st District video pointed out the number of unborn children likely to die because no action was taken. It thanked the legislators who followed the platform by voting to consider the issue and included a screenshot of how each legislator voted. 

The State Chair demanded the video be taken down immediately, and the Rules Committee appointed by the State Chair sanctioned the 1st District for the video by making up the offense of favoring one group of Republicans over another. As we said before, anytime a committee speaks out in defense of the platform, that statement necessarily praises those who follow the platform and criticizes those who don’t. 

When the Rules Committee sanctioned the district, it was defending Republican legislators who were not guided by the platform in this instance. Some may have opposed strengthening Arkansas’ abortion law and some would have supported it, if it had not been for their fear of offending Governor Hutchinson. 

The message of the Rules Committee was clear – “Don’t say anything that would embarrass an elected official who votes against the platform.” 

The video was quickly taken down but not before it could be captured by others. Today you will probably watch several videos on the internet, so please take a few minutes to watch the excellent and emotional video that has been censored. 


Note: The video includes news footage of Sarah Sanders before her run for Governor. It shows her consistent pro-life stand. 

Example – “Not Recommended” Incumbent (2022) 

During the 2022 campaign season, the Independence County and Izard County committees passed “Not a recommended candidate” resolutions directed against their incumbent Senator. They cited his voting record, which was frequently contrary to the party platform.  

While county committees are prohibited from endorsing a candidate in the Republican primary, party rules give county committees the authority to pass a “Not a recommended candidate” resolution. 

The resolutions seemed to have infuriated some officers of the State Committee. The State Chair at the time said the action amounted to “prohibited favoritism.” While acknowledging the committee had the right to adopt such a resolution, the State Chair claimed the resolution was only for addressing “egregious actions (for example someone who is a member of or espousing the principles of the KKK or Antifa or someone who has been convicted of a felony after they filed for office).” Party rules have no such limitations; and even if it did, why wouldn’t ignoring the platform be “egregious.” 

Neither of the county committees backed down despite perceived threats. 

Some officers of the State Committee floated the idea of a proposed rule change to end the ability of county committees to speak out on issues or pass a “Not a recommended candidate” resolution. The idea would have relegated county and district committees to being no more than cheerleaders for everyone with an “R” beside their name in the primary, even the obvious RINOs Trans-Republicans. 

The officials underestimated the reaction of Republicans who were offended by the proposal, and the idea was quickly dropped. 


First, it cannot be emphasized too many times that for the most part the State Convention, the State Committee, and even the Executive Committee work very well together. 

Second, sometimes the difference in focus between State Convention delegates and State Committee members lead to conflicting positions, sometimes glaring conflicts. The issue of closed primaries is an example. 

Third, Republican party unity is very important, but so is what the party stands to accomplish through its platform principles. 

Are you more focused on the platform and getting conservative results, or are you more focused on growing the number of people who sometimes vote in the Republican primary and in protecting all candidates who wear the “R” label, regardless of where they stand on the issues? 

This is the challenge moving forward and will be decided by those willing to learn and apply the rules, do the work, grow the county membership, and begin the work of implementing the principles enshrined in the Republican Platform. Alternatively, an effort could be made to quietly soften and/or shrink the platform itself. 

One last thing to consider. A lifelong Democrat explained to a Conduit member the reason he switched parties and filed as a Republican. It wasn’t because he was guided by what the parties stand for. The lifelong Democrat said, “I filed as a Republican because I want to win. 

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i The total number of delegates varies from county to county based on the sum of the following criteria:  
  1. Three (3) delegates from each county.
  2. One (1) delegate for each one thousand (1,000) votes or majority fraction thereof cast for the Republican candidate for Governor in the immediately preceding gubernatorial election.
  3. One (1) delegate for each Republican holding countywide office.
  4. One (1) delegate for each Republican holding the office of Justice of the Peace.
ii INTERNET SALES TAX (2017) On February 21, 2017 the Washington County Republican Committee passed a resolution against adoption of an internet sales tax. (This is a tax Arkansans now pay when they order an item from an out-of-state seller.) At least one more county committee passed a similar resolution against the internet sales tax. The committees were defending the 6th Principle of the Republican Party of Arkansas is “Lower taxes to produce economic growth. 
iii URGING OFFICEHOLDERS TO RESPECT THE PARTY PLATFORM (2019) The Craighead County Republican Committee was concerned because some of their elected Republicans were voting with the Democrats and against Republican principles.  On May 28, 2019 they passed a non-binding resolution affirming the principles in the Republican Party platform and asking their elected official to do all they can to follow the platform. An incumbent Senator was so incensed the committee would try to get him to follow the platform that he called them communists.  The incumbent Senator lost his primary race. 
iv SECOND AMENDMENT RIGHTS (2019). On September 24, 2019, the Jackson County Republican Committee passed a resolution demanding Republican officeholders protect our Second Amendment rights to own and bear arms. The resolution included a list of specific types of legislation the committee expected officeholders to oppose, including such things as Red Flag laws. The committee was defending the 8th Principle of the Republican Party of Arkansas is: “The personal right to own and bear arms. 
v PRO-LIFE VIDEO (2022). The 1st Congressional District Committee published a pro-life video in December 2021. The video criticized the legislature’s decision adjourn a special legislative session to avoid voting on a bill to protect unborn children. It praised Republican legislators who voted to continue the special session to consider the issue. The video was in defense of the party platform which includes these statements: “As we are endowed with these abilities by God Almighty at our creation, we assert the sanctity of human life and affirm that unborn children have a right to live that cannot be infringed. And “Most importantly, we believe all unborn children have a fundamental right to live in order to avail themselves of these equal opportunities. We commend all those who provide or promote alternatives to abortion. We also oppose assisted suicide, euthanasia, genocide, infanticide, cloning, and embryonic/fetal stem cell research. The Rules Committee appointed by the State Committee elected chair didn’t care about the platform and instead sanctioned the district for the video. More about that conflict later. 
vi “NOT RECOMMENDED” CANDIDATE (2022) On February 1, 2022 The Independence County Republican committee voted 25 to 0 that their incumbent Arkansas State Senator be designated “not a recommended candidate”. On February 8, 2022 the Izard County Republican Committee passed an identical resolution concerning the same incumbent Senator. Their decisions were based on the incumbent’s voting record which frequently went against the Arkansas Republican Party platform. They saw this action necessary to defend the platform. But the action also put them in conflict with officers of the State Committee. More about the conflict later. 
vii “NOT RECOMMENDED” CANDIDATE (2023) May 8, 2023, the Izard County Committee and several other county committees passed resolutions designating former Governor Asa Hutchinson as “not a recommended candidate” in the presidential race because as governor he frequently disregarded the party platform. 
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