Jim Bob Duggar Announces Run for Arkansas State Senate amid Son Josh's Child Porn Case

The announcement comes as the once tight-knit reality TV family has fractured amid the scandal brought on by oldest son Josh Duggar's arrest in April, with a trial set to start next month

Jim Bob Duggar (R) and wife Michelle Duggar visit "Extra" at their New York studios at H&M in Times Square on March 11, 2014 in New York City.
Jim Bob Duggar (left) and Michelle Duggar. Photo: D Dipasupil/Getty

Jim Bob Duggar — patriarch of reality TV's Duggar family — announced on Friday that he had officially launched a campaign for Arkansas State Senate District 7, saying in a release posted to Facebook that he planned to run a "pro-family, pro-business, pro-gun and pro-life" campaign.

"I'm running for State Senate because these are unprecedented times in our nation. Out-of-control bureaucrats have put politics over common-sense policy with government mandates that force people to choose between earning a paycheck and violating their personal rights and beliefs," Jim Bob, 56, said in the release. "The foundational principles that have made our nation great are under threat like never before."

The release continued: "It's time for conservatives to demand courageous leadership that puts Arkansas families, jobs, and our constitutional liberties first."

As noted in the release, Jim Bob previously served in the Arkansas House of Representatives for four years, from 1999 to 2002.

Jim Bob, wife Michelle, 54, and their 19 kids were the stars of two wildly popular reality shows about their deeply conservative Christian family on TLC.

His campaign announcement comes as the once tight-knit family has recently fractured amid the controversy brought on by oldest son Josh Duggar's arrest in April on charges of receiving and possessing child pornography.

Josh has pleaded not guilty.

"We intend to defend this case aggressively and thoroughly," Josh's attorneys said in an April statement. "In this country, no one can stop prosecutors from charging a crime. But when you're accused, you can fight back in the courtroom — and that is exactly what Josh intends to do."

Following Josh's arrest, TLC cut all ties with the Duggars and pulled the plug on Counting On — with sources recently telling PEOPLE the crisis has weighed on the family.

"They aren't as close as they once were because of all of Josh's legal drama," a source told PEOPLE earlier this year. "It's creating a lot of stress on them — although the majority of the family is acting like nothing has happened."

Josh's latest scandal came six years after the network cancelled the family's first show, 19 Kids and Counting, after a 2006 police investigation was resurfaced revealing that Josh had been accused of molesting five underage girls (including at least two of his sisters) in 2002 and 2003, when he was 14.

Three months later, a massive data hack revealed that Josh was a dues-paying member of Ashley Madison, a cheating website, and he soon confessed to being unfaithful to his wife Anna Duggar and having an addiction to pornography.

After some time in a faith-based rehabilitation center in Illinois, he returned to his family.

Josh is currently staying with third-party custodians and is confined to their home via GPS tracking as he awaits his criminal trial on Nov. 30.

And Jim Bob and Michelle "are very much standing by their son," the family source previously told PEOPLE.

"Jim Bob always wants to sweep things under the rug," the source said. "He's never going to talk about the scandal because it's bad for business."

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