- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 17, 2014

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - Republican gubernatorial candidate Asa Hutchinson said Wednesday that Arkansas residents are about to be treated to something that voters in Iowa and New Hampshire see every four years - a barrage of political advertising.

Speaking to the Political Animals club in Little Rock, Hutchinson estimated that candidates up and down the ballot would spend $16 million over the next seven weeks on television and other media ads. He compared the upcoming ad blitz to the opening races of runs for the White House.

“Arkansas has never seen anything like that,” Hutchinson said. “If you’ve been in New Hampshire or Iowa during a presidential campaign, then you might have seen this before.”

Hutchinson is running against Democratic candidate Mike Ross, who is scheduled to appear before the group on Oct. 15. Both candidates are former congressmen running to replace Gov. Mike Beebe, who is prohibited from running for re-election because of term limits.

Also running are the Green Party’s Joshua Drake and Libertarian Frank Gilbert.

Generating even more interest than the governor’s race this year is the battle between incumbent Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., and Rep. Tom Cotton, R-Ark. Their race began 13 months ago, with both candidates running their own ads and benefiting from political interest groups outside the state. Candidates for other statewide races and in local contests will want television exposure, too.

Because voters could potentially shut out negative advertising, Hutchinson said candidates would need to seek the higher road.

“There’s one thing that I can control, and that’s my own messaging and it is also our get-out-the-vote effort. And that’s what we’re going to be focusing on in the last 50 days of the campaign,” he said.

Ross campaign spokesman Brad Howard asked Hutchinson to disavow negative ads that others are running against the Democrat.

Hutchinson said he is not coordinating any attack ads from outsiders and sees them when other Arkansans do.

“I have to concentrate on what our message is,” he said to reporters after his speech.

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