Darr, Westerman Entering Fourth District Congressional Race (UPDATED)
Lt. Governor Mark Darr and House Majority Leader Rep. Bruce Westerman are both poised to enter the Fourth District Congressional GOP primary now that Cong. Tom Cotton (R) has jumped in the U.S. Senate race against Sen. Mark Pryor (D).
Cotton’s departure leaves the Fourth District as an open seat.
Darr has scheduled an announcement on Monday (Aug. 12) at 6pm in his new place of residence, Mansfield, Ark. (Scott Co.) to launch his candidacy for Congress. He is expected to tour the district on Tuesday and the rest of the week.
Darr, who has a background in the insurance and restaurant business, won election in 2010 as Lt. Governor in a year when Republicans made huge gains in other state constitutional offices as well as the Arkansas legislature.
Westerman, who represents a House district in Hot Springs (Garland Co.), was another one of those 2010 GOP victors. An engineer by vocation, Westerman will make his Congressional plans public Tuesday (Aug. 13) at a 10am announcement at the Garland County Courthouse.
Talk Business Arkansas will update this story with details as the announcements are made official.
Former 2010 GOP nominee Beth Anne Rankin, who also ran in 2012 but lost to Cotton, says she is considering a third run at the Congressional seat.
Democrat Janis Percefull, a Hot Springs historian, announced for the office last week. Other Democrats considering a run include State Sen. Bobby Pierce (D-Sheridan).
Greg Hale, a political consultant from southwest Arkansas, said he has ruled out a race this cycle but not necessarily in future elections. He tells Talk Business Arkansas, “While I am not considering a political run this cycle, I appreciate all the encouragement.”
UPDATE I: Darr made it official Monday evening. “Congress seems set on petty bickering rather than addressing unemployment and tax reform,” said Darr. “It’s time for new leadership. It’s time to put Arkansans back to work.”
“Tonight we start a campaign to change Washington,” said Darr. “The establishment that is D.C. has forgotten about people like us. They have forgotten what normal looks like. Together we will change that. If you elect me to Congress, I will not forget my roots or the struggles facing Arkansans every day.”
In his one term in office as Lt. Governor, Darr joined a lawsuit challenging the implementation of the federal health care law. He also pushed for an “open checkbook” measure to improve transparency in state government.
In previous months, Darr flirted with runs for the U.S. Senate and Governor. He encountered criticism for his signing of a bill when Gov. Mike Beebe (D) was out of state, and he made headlines last year when Signature Bank initiated foreclosure proceedings on his Springdale home.
UPDATE II: Westerman made his candidacy official Tuesday morning.
“We face the critical decision in 2014 of what it will be like to live in this country and in our state. We must decide whether people will have more power to shape their own lives, or whether we’re going to lose that power to an unfair, top-down Obama administration where the IRS runs rampant looking in to our lives, where overly burdensome regulations stifle our ability to grow good-paying jobs for our workers, and where a government that refuses to live within its means threatens our future,” Westerman said.
“It has never been my life ambition to live and work in Washington, D.C. My family is here. But if my serving in Congress is necessary to ensure my children, and all of our children, have a brighter future and a federal government that treats us fairly, then that is a sacrifice that I am willing to make.”
As House Majority Leader, Westerman helped guide a number of bills into law that were part of the GOP caucus’ SIMPLE plan.
He was originally a co-sponsor of a Republican effort to create a “private option” health insurance program, which would use Medicaid expansion funds to subsidize private health insurance plans for lower income workers. Late in the session, Westerman abandoned his support of the program, removed his name from the bill, and unsuccessfully led the charge to stop the legislation.
He also was stymied on one of his major legislative efforts to restrict the increase in state spending by tying it to personal income growth. The bill, which was opposed by Gov. Beebe, never cleared the full House of Representatives.