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ROGERS -- Political newcomer Christie Craig will give Rep. Grant Hodges, R-Rogers, his first Democratic challenge since 2014 in the Nov. 6 general election.

Hodges was the newcomer in 2014, defeating a Democratic opponent and a Libertarian with 59 percent of the vote in a race with no incumbent. House District 96 stretches through eastern Benton County from the Missouri border to the Washington County line. A portion of eastern Rogers is its most densely populated area.

Craig said she is running to show that Democrats are not all liberals from out of state. She said patrons of the district need the health care bills Hodges has voted against and the infrastructure, from roads to Internet access, that government provides. Hodges is too concerned with tax cuts, she said.

Arkansas added requirements to state-supported health care coverage that require Internet access to fulfill, she said.

"We are adding requirements that demand use of infrastructure that doesn't exist," Craig said. "I grew up south of Ozark. My graduating class had 49 students in it. I'm the first generation of my family to graduate from college, and, where I come from, you don't throw people off your front porch. If they truly need help, you give it to them."

Craig was a Walmart store manager in Springdale. She is pursuing a master's degree in sociology at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville. In both work and study, she has encountered all kinds of people with all kinds of problems, she said.

"My grandparents could not read or write," she said. "I am one generation removed from that and know the value of hard work."

Hodges said he represents the conservative values of the district, adding that he is among the more conservative members of the House, yet he was elected by a large majority in 2014 and again in 2016. He received more than 59 percent of the vote in 2014 against two opponents, a Democrat and a Libertarian, and received more than 71 percent of the vote in 2016 against a Libertarian candidate.

Despite his conservative record, Hodges has a proven ability to work with Democrats, he said. An example he gave was his sponsorship of a bill to make Martin Luther King Jr.'s Birthday a separate state holiday. Arkansas was one of the few states to celebrate the holiday jointly with Robert E. Lee's Birthday. Earlier attempts to separate the holiday had failed.

"Everybody told me not to do it, that it wasn't going to pass anyway, and it would just hurt me politically," Hodges said. "It needed to be done, though."

Hodges said mixing the holidays hurt the state's image,and he credited bipartisan support for getting the measure passed in 2017.

Working between legislative sessions to help constituents deal with state bureaucracy is a major portion of his job, Hodges said. For instance, he is currently trying to negotiate a complex dispute between the state Game and Fish Commission and bait suppliers for fishing in Beaver Lake.

On health care, he said work requirements and other improvements added to state-administered benefits have improved the system to the point he can consider supporting it.

Early voting begins Oct. 22.

Metro on 10/08/2018

Print Headline: District hopefuls seek seat in House

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