- Associated Press - Thursday, June 2, 2016

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - Two Republicans said Thursday they’re running for Arkansas secretary of state in 2018, signaling a potentially crowded primary for a position that will be key in redrawing legislative district lines.

Land Commissioner John Thurston and Deputy Secretary of State Joseph Wood said they’re seeking the GOP nomination for the post being vacated by Republican Mark Martin. Martin was first elected in 2010 and is barred by term limits from seeking re-election.

“It is early to start a campaign, obviously, but I just wanted to put the stakes in the ground just so that my constituents would know what my plans were going forward,” said Thurston, who has served two terms as land commissioner.

Wood, who has served as deputy secretary of state since Martin took office in 2011, said he’ll also seek the party’s nomination.

“It’s an opportunity to serve Arkansas in another capacity,” Wood said. “I think we’ve done a phenomenal job over the past two terms we’ve been in office.”

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette first reported the candidacies of Thurston and Wood on Thursday morning. So far, no Democrats have announced a bid for secretary of state or any other statewide offices in the 2018 election. Republican House Speaker Jeremy Gillam said he’s also considering running for secretary of state, but said he doesn’t plan to make a decision until sometime next year.

“Right now my focus is entirely on the 2017 session and trying to get geared up for that and being there for the members,” Gillam said.

A spokesman for Auditor Andrea Lea, a Republican who has also been mentioned as a potential candidate, said Lea is focused on her job and wouldn’t say whether she’s considering a bid or running for re-election in two years.

“An election two years away is not something she wants to concern herself with this early,” spokesman Skot Covert said.

The secretary of state, governor and attorney general make up the Board of Apportionment, which is in charge of redrawing state legislative district lines after the 2020 census. Republicans currently control all statewide and federal offices in Arkansas, and hold a majority in both chambers of the Legislature.

The state’s other top elected Republicans, including Gov. Asa Hutchinson and Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, haven’t announced whether they’ll seek re-election in 2018. Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin said he’ll announce his future plans in the coming weeks.

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Follow Andrew DeMillo on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ademillo

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