LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas — Arkansas' political filing season ended Monday, and with Republicans' firm grip on the state Senate, Democrats are hoping to win back the House.
Barring upsets by candidates from third parties, independents or write-ins, Republicans are set to control the state Senate again in 2015.
Nine Senate posts up for election this year drew only Republican candidates, and with 11 GOP senators not up for re-election this year, the party — barring any upsets — would have at least 20 seats in the 35-member chamber next year. Democrats will hold 11 unless one of its five candidates this year is taken down. Republicans currently hold a 22-13 edge in the Senate.
In the state House, the GOP has 35-27 edge in this election over Democrats where only one person has entered, pending qualifying by independents or write-in candidates. Control of the House in 2015 will depend on results from 34 head-to-head matchups this fall, as the chamber currently stands at 51 Republicans, 48 Democrats and one Green Party member.
"We looked at seats where we thought we had a really good shot picking up and that's where we're going to focus our time and attention on," said Democratic Party Chairman Vince Insalaco.
Alex Reed, a spokesman for the Secretary of State's office, said more than 400 candidates filed paperwork through Monday's deadline — but only 21 signed up Monday, when ice and snow covered most of the state's roadways after a weekend winter storm.
"Last filing period, you saw an increase of people that filed on the last day," Reed said. "You didn't see that this year, probably because of the weather."
The last person to file Monday was Sheena Lewis, who entered the Democratic primary for a state House post in Pulaski County. Lewis said work commitments prevented her from filing earlier in the race, in which she'll face Rodney Hall and Charles Blake.
Others to file Monday include Republican Patricia Nation of Jacksonville for attorney general. She joins Leslie Rutledge and David Sterling in the GOP primary. Rep. Nate Steel is the sole Democrat in the race.
Retired Army Col. Conrad Reynolds, a Republican, joined the 2nd Congressional District race Monday and will face state Rep. Ann Clemmer and Little Rock businessman French Hill in the primary. Former North Little Rock mayor Patrick Henry Hays is the only Democrat running.
Reynolds paid the Republican Party's $15,000 filing fee for congressional office with a check, after using stacks of one-dollar bills as a prop. He said he did that to illustrate that he wants to represent everyday Arkansans as opposed to corporations.
Democrat Mark Robertson, a Little Rock landscape architect, also submitted his official bid Monday against John Thurston, the Republican incumbent land commissioner.
Insalaco said he was happy the party will have a low number of primaries in May, but one of the unexpected Democratic primaries will be in the governor's race. Little Rock substitute teacher Lynette Bryant entered the race last week — creating the only Democratic primary for a state constitutional office.
Doyle Webb, chairman for Arkansas' Republican Party, said some in his party unexpectedly switched races for the Arkansas Legislature.
"We had a few surprises; just people being moved for the Senate to the House," he said. "But as far as other races go, we did not have any surprises."
Party primaries will be held May 20 with runoffs three weeks later in races where a candidate doesn't receive more than 50 percent of the vote. The general election is Nov. 4.