State Rep. Monte Hodges, D-Blytheville, will seek the Democratic nomination for U.S. Congress in the First District, the seat currently held by U.S. Rep. Rick Crawford, R-Jonesboro.
Hodges, a five-term representative, told Talk Business & Politics he’s pleased with the work he’s done in the state legislature and now he’s ready to seek federal office. He will formally launch his campaign Wednesday (Jan. 5) in Blytheville. Hodges said he will not seek another term in the State House.
“I felt like the time was right. Our current congressman hasn’t done much for the first district of Arkansas,” he said.
If he wins the primary, Hodges, 50, will face the winner of the Republican primary. Incumbent Rep. Rick Crawford is being challenged in the GOP primary by current State Rep. Brandt Smith, R-Jonesboro. No other Democrats have announced for the seat.
Hodges never thought growing up he’d ever have the opportunity to serve in the State House let alone be elected to serve in Washington D.C. He grew up in a single parent home in an impoverished part of Blytheville. He’s spent 30 years in the banking industry in addition to his time in elected office.
“I never, ever thought I’d be a politician. This has been a calling for sure,” he said.
Hodges acknowledged he faces a daunting task if he wins the primary. The district was long held by the Democratic Party from the time of Reconstruction until Crawford broke through in 2010. Since then, Crawford has easily won re-election and didn’t draw an opponent during his last run in 2020.
To win the district, Hodges will have to siphon off Republican voters.
Hodges said he plans to reach voters in both parties and independents by pushing a strong legislative platform that will center around economic growth, infrastructure, healthcare and criminal justice reform.
Arkansas needs greater access to broadband, and the state’s highways systems need vast upgrades, Hodges said. Tax credits and other incentives are needed to lure businesses to the Arkansas Delta. Those improvements and incentives alone will spur better economic growth.
He noted that Crawford voted against the recently passed bi-partisan infrastructure bill that is projected to pump about $4 billion into the state.
“Look what happened with the I-40 bridge. It was a debacle,” he said. “We have to have infrastructure improvements.”
One area of concern for Hodges is criminal justice reform. If elected, he plans to push for legislation that would reform sentencing guidelines and create pathways for inmates to transition back into productive members of society when they are released from incarceration.
“We’ve got to find a way to help these folks break the cycle of repeated recidivism,” he said.
Hodges said he will have to pull off an historic upset to win the seat. But, there were very few who would have bet he’d achieved what he has when his humble beginnings are factored. Hodges said he has a long-standing reputation in the State House as a legislator who can reach across the aisle to work with those in the Republican Party.
“I’m going to make this race about people, not party,” he said.