story by Ryan Saylor
Rep. Bill Gossage, R-Ozark, has announced that he will seek a second term as the representative for District in the Arkansas House later this year.
Gossage, assistant superintendent of the Ozark Public School System and the president of the Ozark Area Chamber of Commerce, said in a press release that his first term focused on education and tax policy.
“Over the past year I have fought for better education for our children and tax relief for all Arkansans. Though we’ve been successful, there is much more work to do to make Arkansas a better place to work and raise our families.”
The re-election announcement from Gossage goes on to say that he "served on the House Revenue and Taxation Committee, the Aging Children and Youth, Legislative & Military Affairs Committee and was also appointed by Speaker Carter to the State and Public School and Health Insurance Program Legislative Task Force. Gossage served as Republican Chair of the Freshman Caucus and Policy Chairman for the House Republican Caucus."
Gossage is just the latest local politician to announce a run for a House or Senate seat from the Fort Smith area. Following are a list of candidates who have announced for election later this year:
• Justin Boyd: A Republican from Fort Smith, Boyd became the first announced candidate in District 77, currently represented by term-limited Rep. Stephanie Malone, R-Fort Smith.
In his campaign announcement, Boyd made clear that his background in the medical field was going to become a large part of his campaign.
"Without a doubt, (health care) is (an) important issue to me and one I am passionate about," he said. "But running for this office means I can make positive changes in all areas for my family and other families in Arkansas. Being a State Representative isn't a license for mediocrity. (It) means you get in and roll your sleeves up and make things work for your neighbors."
Sebastian County Justice of the Peace Danny Aldridge, R-Fort Smith, has been rumored to be exploring a run for the seat but confirmed Monday (Feb. 3) that he would not seek the seat.
• Rep. Charlene Fite: The freshman Republican from Van Buren is so far the only announced candidate for her District 80 seat, which encompasses parts of western Crawford and Washington Counties.
In announcing her re-election bid, Fite said her short tenure had already resulted in 11 sponsored bills, all passing both the House and Senate.
"Bills sponsored by Fite include one establishing civil penalties for the crime of stalking; an act providing for licensed qualified interpreters for individuals who are deaf; an act strengthening sentence enhancement for domestic battering; an act concerning the required child maltreatment central registry checks for adoption; an act to provide for extended post-conviction no contact orders for certain criminal offenses; and an act to amend the child maltreatment act."
• Rep. Justin Harris: A representative whose district runs from West Fork to Alma, Harris confirmed July 2013 that he would not run for any higher office, instead saying that he felt most effective right where he was.
"I think there's too much at stake in the upcoming legislative session …to look at the private option, to see what we've got to look at for every year it's going to have to be approved. And look at the triggers, and just to see what's going to have to be approved."
The often outspoken Republican will be seeking his third and last term in the Arkansas House of Representatives.
• Sen. Bruce Holland and Rep. Terry Rice: When Sen. Bruce Holland, a Greenwood Republican, ran for re-election to the state senate in 2012, he got a run for his money from then-Rep. Rick Green, R-Van Buren, with the race quickly turning dirty. In the end, Holland came out on top even after Green endorsed Holland's Democratic challenger, Rep. Tracy Pennartz of Fort Smith.
In this latest primary matchup, Rep. Terry Rice, R-Waldron, said he would run for Holland's District 9 seat in order to uphold the values that have guided him as a state representative, he said.
"As a business owner, I understand the pressures of making a payroll, dealing with taxes and excessive government regulations, along with the additional costs passed on to the consumers who already live on a tight budget. I live by the conservative values instilled in me by my father and grandfather — faith, family, hard work, and mature judgment."
For his part, Holland has said he and Rice are friends and he was caught off guard.
• Rep. George McGill: The Fort Smith Democrat (District 78) said he would seek a second term in the Arkansas House back in November 2013, highlighting several different accomplishments in his announcement, including assistance in securing more than $1 million for the U.S. Marshals Museum. McGill also pointed to his leadership in "protecting funding for higher education throughout the state" and having the Arkansas Economic Development Team visit Fort Smith.
• Matt Pitsch: The Republican business owner is making his second run for the District 76 seat, hoping to succeed the man he challenged to a primary in 2012.
Pitsch, who lost that year's primary to Rep. Denny Altes, R-Fort Smith, a term-limited establishment of the Sebastian County Republican Party, touted himself as a fiscal conservative focused on economic development when he announced for this year's run.