Arkansas polls close as Sarah Sanders favored to win GOP nomination and Boozman hopes to retain Senate seat

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Polls in Arkansas have closed as former White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders is favored to win the GOP nomination for governor and incumbent Sen. John Boozman hopes to fend off his primary challengers in a contentious race.

Endorsed early on in the race by former President Trump, Sanders hopes to clinch her party’s nomination in an attempt to replace incumbent Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who is term-limited and has served as governor of the state since 2015.

Ahead of Tuesday’s election, Sanders, who announced she was running for governor in January 2021, consistently polled ahead of Francis “Doc” Washburn, her primary challenger. Washburn is a former radio talk show host who now has his own national podcast.

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Former White House press secretary Sarah Sanders (L), Sen.  John Boozman, R-Ark.  (R)

Former White House press secretary Sarah Sanders (L), Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark. (R)
(Steven Ferdman / Getty Images, Tom Williams / CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

Sanders, a mother of three, served as White House press secretary in the Trump administration from 2017 to 2019. Sanders’ father, Mike Huckabee, served as the 44th governor of Arkansas from 1996 to 2007.

Monday was the deadline for campaigns to file their monthly fundraising reports with the state. Sanders reported having more than $ 7 million cash on hand for her campaign at the end of April. Sanders’ campaign reported spending more than $ 838,000 last month. Far outpacing her Republican and Democratic challengers, she has raised nearly $ 15 million since launching her campaign.

FILE - In this Monday, March 11, 2019, file photo, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders speaks during a news briefing at the White House, in Washington.

FILE – In this Monday, March 11, 2019, file photo, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders speaks during a news briefing at the White House, in Washington.
(AP Photo / Evan Vucci, File)

Chris Jones, the front-runner in fundraising among the five Democrats seeking the party’s nomination, raised more than $ 161,000 last month and spent more than $ 147,000. Jones has raised $ 1.8 million since entering the governor’s race and has about $ 108,000 on hand.

While Sanders seemingly cemented her position among Republicans in the state, the Republican primary race for the Senate, which features incumbent Arkansas Sen. John Boozman, was a slightly different story.

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Boozman, who also received Trump’s endorsement, saw widespread support throughout the state during his campaign for another term. However, he was also met with a backlash among those who were not pleased that he did not support overturning the 2020 election results.

Sen.  John Boozman, R-Ark., Speaks during a Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee confirmation hearing on Wednesday, Jan.  27, 2021.

Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., Speaks during a Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee confirmation hearing on Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2021.
(Sarah Silbiger / Bloomberg via Getty Images)

The most vocal of Boozman’s challengers is former NFL star Jake Bequette, who enjoyed the support of billionaire Richard Uihlein’s contribution of $ 1.5 million to fund a super PAC backing Bequette.

Boozman’s political career began in the US House in 2001 after he won a special election. He served in that role until 2010 when he was first elected to the Senate.

Boozman, a former optometrist, is the senior Senator from Arkansas and the dean of the state’s congressional delegation. In 2016, he defeated his primary challenger Curtis Coleman in the GOP primary election for Senate out of Arkansas.

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In addition to Bequette, other candidates seeking the GOP nomination for US Senate in Arkansas are Heath Loftis and Jan Morgan.

The primaries in Arkansas will head to a runoff election if no candidate wins a majority of the vote.

Fox News’ Paul Steinhauser and The Associated Press contributed to this article.