Rep. Mat Pitsch, R-Fort Smith, announced on Tuesday (May 16) his intent to run for the District 8 Senate seat occupied by fellow Republican Sen. Jake Files. The general election for that seat is in November 2018.
Files served two terms in the Arkansas House of Representatives (1999 – 2003) and was first elected to the Senate in 2011. He is chair of the influential Senate Revenue and Tax Committee.
Pitsch was elected to the Arkansas House of Representatives in 2015 (District 76) and was named House Majority Leader in 2016, during the fiscal session. Pitsch has served on the House Transportation Committee and the Agriculture, Forestry and Economic Development Committee. During the 91st General Assembly, Pitsch was a sponsor of the Tax Reform and Relief Act of 2017, one of Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s primary objectives for the session.
“I’m proud of the work we’ve been able to accomplish in the House of Representatives and helping the Governor strengthen the state during my time in the House,” Pitsch said. “We’ve been able to speak for Fort Smith and have worked to make it and our regional partners relevant in Arkansas. I’m excited to move to the Senate and continue representing our community.”
Pitsch said his focus, if elected, “will continue to be on representing Fort Smith and the region, promoting economic development, expanding and maintaining transportation infrastructure, and stimulating pro-growth economic policies for the state.”
Sen. Files told Talk Business & Politics on Tuesday he would not seek reelection, stating the following: “I think Mat has made it well known in Fort Smith that he is anxious to move up the political ladder as quickly as possible, so I am not surprised by this early announcement, and he mentions his intent to represent Fort Smith in the Senate. There are other communities in this Senate district like Greenwood and Hackett that I have been proud to represent and work for as well.”
Files said it had been “a distinct honor to serve and be a leader in making our region relevant in Little Rock again,” adding that he has taken “a new job recently and will most likely be moving to take advantage of that promising opportunity, and I will not be able to dedicate the time needed to serving in the Senate.”
FILES’ LEGAL ISSUES
Files has faced legal challenges since winning election in 2012. These have included a pending dispute with the city of Fort Smith over the unfinished River Valley Sports Complex (RVSC) as well as a formal criminal complaint filed by Fort Smith City Director Keith Lau over allegations Files mishandled funds.
Files has denied the allegations.
Files and his former business partners also face a $1.8 million foreclosure lawsuit brought by Fannie Mae, the government enterprise that provides financing for low- to moderate-income housing.
In a previous interview with Talk Business & Politics, he was asked if he intended to step down over the pending issues, to which he responded, “I have not done anything to necessitate me needing to resign my position.” He did, however, cast doubts on whether a reelection campaign was on the horizon, stating, “I’d have to declare, and I haven’t decided.”
Pitsch told Talk Business & Politics when he spoke to Files about his intent to run for the Senate seat, Files “thanked me for the phone call.”
“I don’t know if he is or isn’t (running). That’s really on him. We thought about this for my decision and went from there,” Pitsch noted.
Pitsch said what he is most excited for in the potential Senate move is the opportunity to fulfill more “constituent services,” noting the 8th district is about “three times the size” of District 76.