Arkansas House District 80: Bibbs and Fite

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 120 views 

The primary battle for the GOP nomination to the Arkansas House of Representatives District 80 pits Republican challengers Charlene Fite and Terry Bibbs in a contest that presents an educational specialist (Fite) versus a small business owner (Bibbs).

The winner of the May 22 primary election will face Democrat Jack Norton, who is unopposed in the primary.

The City Wire recently spoke with Fite and Bibbs about what makes each the best candidate for the position. Fite drew comparisons between her educational experience and the amount of funding that education receives from the state annually.

For Bibbs, the emphasis was on knowing rural life and working as a cattle farmer and small businessman. Both candidates cited "the economy" and "jobs" as the most important issue District 80 faces.

On the top issue facing the 2013-2014 Arkansas General Assembly, Fite believes the "$400 million shortfall in the Medicaid program" requires immediate attention, while Bibbs wants to "make our tax code competitive so we will quit bleeding jobs." Both agree that overspending must stop.

Each candidate’s full responses to three basic questions asked by The City Wire are listed below. (Also, link here for the full list of legislative races in the Fort Smith and Northwest Arkansas areas.)

Terry Bibbs
• Why are you the better candidate for the position?
I've lived in this area my entire life. I understand what it’s like to live in a rural area and what our specific needs are in our community. I work in a small business, I have owned a small business, and I'm a cattle farmer. I have been a leader in my community. I have strong conservative beliefs that I won't bend on, but my experience as a leader has taught me how to work with others to get things done and make sure our district is well represented. I have a vested interest in our district and I plan on working for this district with integrity.

• What is the number one issue within your district?
Jobs. We need to work hard to make our tax system competitive to help lure jobs to our state. I will continue to work closely with the local Chambers of Commerce and city leaders to show what our area can do for those willing to bring jobs to our district. I would say that cutting waste in spending and improving education is part of making our area attractive to businesses.

• What is the top issue the 2013-2014 Arkansas General Assembly will face?
The top issue for 2013-2014 is making our tax code competitive so we will quit bleeding jobs. We need an overhaul of state government to help make it more efficient and less wasteful. We need to continue to work to prevent the implementation of Obamacare. If we don't get our fiscal house in order soon, it may be too late. 140 years of Democrat control in Arkansas has us ranked near the bottom in just about every category. We need conservative leadership to try and power us forward before our rural areas completely wither away.

Charlene Fite
• Why are you the better candidate for the position?
My education and experience combine to make me uniquely qualified to represent District 80. I have been described as having a good combination of "book learning" and common sense. The majority of our state's spending centers around education. I am experienced in all facets of education in both public and private schools. I have taught every level from preschool to young adults and previously served as the educational director for AR Easter Seals. My experiences living in Taiwan and serving through mission trips to Europe and Asia have helped me work well with people of all walks of life.

• What is the number one issue within your district?
A recent survey that my campaign conducted revealed that the number one issue on the minds of voters in District 80 is the economy. Northwest AR has seen a boom in recent years, becoming one of the fastest growing regions of the United States. However, much of this progress has bypassed our district. I would support any legislation such as tax cuts to level the playing field with surrounding states to help bring back growth to District 80. The SIMPLE plan proposed by the Republican caucus is a good example of what we need to do to help Arkansas compete.

• What is the top issue the 2013-2014 Arkansas General Assembly will face?
We are facing a $400 million shortfall in the Medicaid program. During the past legislative session, Republicans put forth several proposals that would have slowed the spending in Arkansas. Unfortunately, none of these were passed. I would have supported and voted for these proposals. I am in favor of putting our surplus dollars into a Medicaid trust fund. I would vote to pass a Medicaid fraud reduction bill to identify and capture dollars spent fraudulently in the program. Recovering this money and putting it to its proper use would result in millions of dollars in savings for the taxpayers of Arkansas.