Add at least one more contested legislative race to represent Fort Smith. Luke Pruitt will run as a Democrat in his challenge of Rep. Justin Boyd, R-Fort Smith, for the Arkansas House District 77 seat.
As of Feb. 27, neither Boyd nor Pruitt had a primary challenger. Stephen Edwards has filed as a Libertarian.
Pruitt, 33, was set to announce his run Tuesday (Feb. 27) night at an event in downtown Fort Smith. He is a graduate of Southside High School and the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith. Pruitt is also a teacher at Future School of Fort Smith. He and his wife Lauren have two sons, Will (5) and Charlie (3).
“I am running for office because I want to be the change I wish to see in the world. I am running for State Representative because this position is meant to be a voice of the people. Fort Smith is a city with a lot of great people who want to make the world a better place,” Pruitt noted in a statement. “The political environment today can be toxic, but together we can build a city that we are proud for our children and grandchildren to inherit. It is time for a new conversation about what economic growth looks like for Fort Smith.”
He said his platform will focus on affordable access to healthcare, education funding, school safety, and “fostering a healthy and growing economy.”
“Millennials seem to be choosing a place they enjoy living and then finding a job, rather than the other way around. Fort Smith has done well over the last few years to add attractive amenities, but we need to talk about the basics. Ensuring access to affordable preventative healthcare would mean a lot for our economy. A healthier workforce is a more productive and reliable workforce, and that is better for everyone.”
Infrastructure was part of the answer when Pruitt was asked what he might specifically do as a legislator to help the regional economy.
“In the short term, I will advocate for state highway and other infrastructural improvements, but in the longer term the answer is always strengthening education,” Pruitt told Talk Business & Politics. “We need to be creating the entrepreneurs of the future, and investing in ways to ensure that they start and keep their businesses here.”
In his announcement, Pruitt touched on the national debate about guns following the deaths of 17 students and faculty at the Florida high school shooting.
“Arkansans value our Second Amendment rights, but we need to talk about the trade-offs when it comes to gun culture. Lauren and I are afraid to send our kids to school. Many parents we talk to are afraid. Throwing more guns at the problem doesn’t make us less afraid,” he said in the statement.
Continuing, he noted: “There is a tendency to point to mental health after someone commits a crime. Ironically, in Arkansas, if someone gets arrested, we are willing to examine them for mental health issues. But if you are a student in the public school system who suffers from depression, there are very little resources available to you for seeking help. That is unacceptable.”
When asked if he is concerned his views on guns will cost him votes in the traditionally conservative District 77, Pruitt said he believes sentiment is changing.
“No, there are plenty of people in Fort Smith who, like me, value our Second Amendment rights but don’t feel putting guns on college campuses, in dorm rooms, or in our schools is a solution,” he said.
REGIONAL LEGISLATIVE RACES
Following are the other Arkansas House and Senate races among districts in or connected to the Fort Smith metro.
State Rep. Jon Eubanks – R (incumbent)
Lee Johnson – R
(Incumbent State Rep. Charlotte Douglas not seeking re-election to seat)
Kelly Proctor-Pierce – R
Cindy Crawford – R
(Incumbent State Rep. Mat Pitsch seeking State Senate seat)
State Rep. Justin Boyd – R
Stephen Edwards – L
Luke Pruitt – D
Jay Richardson – D
(Incumbent State Rep. George McGill to run for Fort Smith mayor)
State Rep. Gary Deffenbaugh – R (incumbent)
State Rep. Charlene Fite – R (incumbent)
Casey Copeland – L
State Rep. Bruce Coleman – R (incumbent)
Donnie McKinney – D
State Rep. Sarah Capp – R (incumbent)
Sen. Gary Stubblefield
* State Rep. Mat Pitsch – R
Denny Altes – R
William Hyman – L
(Incumbent State Sen. Jake Files has resigned) * Cannot run in special election
State Sen. Terry Rice – R (incumbent)
Link here for a list of state and federal election candidates.