Up in northeast Arkansas, two Republican candidates have announced they intend to run for the Arkansas House of Representatives, both in districts that were taken by Democratic candidates in the 2012 election in Jonesboro and in Pocahontas.

In the Jonesboro House District 58, Brandt Smith plans to challenge for the seat currently held by Democratic Rep. Harold Copenhaver.  Smith is a professor with American Public University System, American Military University where he teaches in the Security and Global Studies college of the university. His students are predominantly U.S. military personnel deployed in Afghanistan and undisclosed locations, Federal/State Law Enforcement personnel as well as members of the Intelligence Community.

“I am running for my family and the people of District 58. I believe our district deserves a Representative who listens, is accessible and values them by representing their best interests,” said Smith who describes himself as an authentic conservative Republican.

In 2012, this district flipped to the Democratic column when Copenhaver defeated incumbent Republican Rep. Jon Hubbard.  The district presents an opportunity for Republicans to take back the seat.

Republicans have another similar opportunity in Pocahontas House District 61 where insurance business owner Keith DeClerk plans to challenge incumbent Democratic Rep. Scott Baltz.  As with the Jonesboro seat, Republican incumbent Rep. Lori Benedict lost to Baltz in a narrow election.

DeClark owns DeClerk Insurance Agency in Pocahontas.  He is a graduate of Arkansas State University and is active with the Kiwanis Club and the Knights of Columbus.

In an election where Republicans are working to hold on to a narrow 51-seat majority, the potential to run good candidates in conservative districts against Democratic incumbents is important.

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Jason Tolbert is the moderator for his opinion blog, The Tolbert Report. He can be reached by e-mail at Jason@TolbertReport.com. Follow him on Twitter: @TolbertReport.