HOT SPRINGS — The two Republicans vying for their party's nomination to represent Arkansas' 4th Congressional District spent Tuesday trying to stir support as voters went to the polls.
State Rep. Bruce Westerman and Tommy Moll, both of Hot Springs, each spent time at Hot Springs-area precincts, waving at passing motorists, working to win votes and renewing a controversy centered on Moll's claim that Westerman for a time supported the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. Westerman says he never has and that Moll's claims are wrong.
Westerman, the House majority leader, cast his primary ballot at Fountain Lake Schools in Hot Springs, voting alongside his wife and 18-year-old son.
He visited five polling sites before and planned to stop at a few more later in the day to try and win over as many supporters as he could.
"I know that we've done our best," he said just before going in to cast his own ballot. "We've run a good campaign, tried to keep it positive. We've run on my record, which I'm proud of that. We'll find out tonight what the voters think. But we know we've done all we can."
Westerman said voters he spoke with Tuesday were responding positively to his platform, which includes reeling in an "overreaching" federal government and fighting "against Obamacare at every turn."
"I think people who know me know I will continue to do that in Washington, D.C.," he said of the latter.
But Moll said voters who want to see Obamacare repealed should cast their ballots for him and not Westerman.
"I'm running to defend our freedoms from a federal government that's out of control," Moll said while campaigning across the street from Red Oak Landmark Missionary Baptist Church while his wife voted there. "I'm the only candidate in this primary that's always been opposed to Obamacare, which is the number one priority with voters and specifically figuring out how to repeal it, which is what I'm going to do."
Moll's campaign has sponsored an advertisement suggesting Westerman has not always been against Obamacare. Westerman was briefly listed as a sponsor of a bill to expand Medicaid, but he voted against it in 2013 and 2014.
Republicans and Democrats have called the ad unfair, and Westerman on Tuesday called it "blatantly" and "totally" false.
"They could have said I was going to destroy the Second Amendment," said Westerman, a gun-rights advocate who was endorsed by the National Rifle Association. "It wouldn't have been a bigger stretch than to say I support Obamacare."
Moll defended the ad on Tuesday, calling it "very clear and very simple" that Westerman's name was at one point listed on two bills tied to implementing Obamacare.
"When folks are informed about that, they tend to realize that yeah, there's a big difference between the candidates and one is a lot stronger on Obamacare and that's us," he said.
Westerman noted he has voted against Obamacare upwards of 15 times in the state House, adding he has spoken with voters upset over an ad he calls misleading.
"I've got a record that I'm proud of," Westerman said. "I hope to be able to defend that record with the Democrats in the general election. But at least it should be an honest defense of my real record, not having to try to convince people what history really was."
Moll said voters he's spoken with have responded positively to the ad. He said he planned to visit a few more polling sites before calling more voters directly to try to win their support.
"We're very confident about today," he said of his chances in Tuesday's primary. "We've had a great reception out and about in the district and have a clear message for victory. We're looking forward to tonight."