A pastor in Batesville announced Tuesday that he is running for governor as a Libertarian next year.
Mark West, 40, previously challenged Republican U.S. Rep. Rick Crawford unsuccessfully for the 1st Congressional District seat in 2016.
West is a pastor at White River Baptist Church in Oil Trough -- southeast of Batesville -- and corporate office manager for Mechanical Construction Services in Newark.
West said he is running for governor "to try to put an end to the bullying form of politics that Asa Hutchinson has brought to Arkansas." He said the Republican governor split the GOP by taking sides in several primary races in the 2016 election and making donations to some primary candidates through the governor's political action committee.
"Libertarians want to scoop up Republicans that will be running from their party," West said.
Hutchinson's political strategist Jon Gilmore on Tuesday declined to comment about West's remarks.
In May, Hutchinson announced his bid for a second four-year term as governor. He said he wants to continue cutting income taxes and creating jobs. He reported more than $690,000 in his campaign treasury at the end of March in his latest campaign finance report. The filing period for state and federal offices will be Feb. 22-March 1 at the state Capitol in Little Rock. The primary is May 22. The general election will be Nov. 6, 2018.
No Democrat has announced for governor.
West said he expects the Libertarians to hold a convention to nominate candidates next spring, and he doesn't expect another Libertarian gubernatorial candidate at this time. He said he would love to get 3 percent of the vote in the 2018 general election to win ballot access for the Libertarian Party, as set out in state law, but "the goal is to win an election."
He said he favors eliminating the state's version of Medicaid expansion in which the state purchases private health insurance for low-income Arkansans. He said he wants to shift the more than 300,000 enrolled in the Medicaid expansion called Arkansas Works into the free market and cooperatives under which discounted medical care is provided based on income.
"There will be services on the free market to meet these needs," he said.
Under the 2010 federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the federal government paid the full cost of expanding coverage for states such as Arkansas. Starting in January, states became responsible for 5 percent of the cost. Federal law calls for states' share to rise until reaching 10 percent in 2020.
West said he also wants to make state government more efficient, cut taxes and provide more services to veterans.
Metro on 06/28/2017