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story.lead_photo.caption U.S. Rep. Steve Womack, R-Ark., (top left) files for reelection Wednesday at the state Capitol as Lisa Hassell (lower left) files as a Democratic candidate for state House District 68. - Photo by Thomas Metthe

U.S. Rep. Steve Womack, a Republican from Rogers, on Wednesday became the last of Arkansas' congressmen to file for reelection, and was among 29 candidates for other offices to submit paperwork for the 2020 elections.

Candidate filing, in its third day, moved slowly Wednesday. Womack strolled into the Capitol during the day's biggest rush -- there were two candidates ahead of him in line -- and long stretches during the later afternoon saw no candidates milling about the filing tables in the second-floor rotunda.

Still, the makeup of the state's legislative and federal races began to take fuller shape.

By the end of the third day, 101 Republicans and 48 Democrats had filed for the state House or Senate. With three days left in the filing period, both parties inched closer to matching their numbers from the 2018 midterms, which saw 118 Republicans and 77 Democrats run in legislative races.

[ARKANSAS ELECTIONS: Searchable list of candidates who have filed for office » arkansasonline.com/elections/2020candidates]

Each of the state's four Republican congressman, as well U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton, have filed for reelection. Womack and U.S. Rep. Bruce Westerman of the 4th Congressional District face Democratic challengers, as does Cotton.

"I've always never shied away from having opposition, people having a choice," Womack said after filing. "It's up to each one of us to make our case to the discerning electorate on why we should be given another term, or why somebody should be even elected in the first place."

So far, the candidates he will face are Celeste Williams, a Democrat from Bella Vista, and Libertarian Michael Kalagias of Rogers in the general election.

In central Arkansas' 2nd Congressional District, the state's most competitive U.S. House seat, no candidate has emerged from the Democratic side to take on U.S. Rep. French Hill of Little Rock.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee will meet with prospective candidates this week in Little Rock, two officials with the party said.

At the state legislative level, Northwest Arkansas has been the hub of activity. Both major parties have candidates in 11 House and Senate districts across the region.

Womack, whose 3rd Congressional District includes most of the region, said he would focus much of his campaign on touting his efforts to improve the congressional budget-drafting process. He is the top Republican on the House Budget Committee.

"The people that I represent are busy every day making a robust Northwest Arkansas economy operate and don't spend a lot of time just caught up in the party politics of the day," Womack said.

Eight of the 11 contested legislative races in Northwest Arkansas have Democratic candidates who are women. Three Republican women also are running in the 11 races.

On Wednesday, the Progressive Arkansas Women PAC and its candidates gathered in the rotunda for photographs. They were wearing all white in celebration of the centennial of the women's suffrage movement in the Natural State. The PAC, which donates, supports and recruits progressive women to run for public office up and down the ballot in Arkansas, expects to have close to two dozen General Assembly candidates in 2020 and scores more for local offices, said Bettina Brownstein, one of the group's founders.

"We're seeing growth and interest," Brownstein said. "We see more women taking the plunge and not being afraid to take on obstacles."

One of those women, Daisy Bonilla, a Bentonville social worker, filed as a Democrat on Wednesday for House District 93, currently held by Rep. Jim Dotson, R-Bentonville. Bonilla said it was nerve-racking filing for office for the first time, but she said that she is running to bring people together in her community.

"Anyone can run for office, but not everyone does," she said. As of Wednesday, Bonilla will face Dotson in the general election, unless other candidates file.

One Northwest Arkansas lawmaker, Rep. Rebecca Petty, R-Rogers, announced Wednesday that she would not run for reelection, setting up an open seat in her district, the 94th. Republican John Carr and Democrat Jene Huffman-Gilreath have filed to run for the seat.

"I've just got other things cooking right now," Petty said, as she accompanied a colleague, Rep. DeAnn Vaught, R-Horatio, who filed for reelection.

Later in the afternoon, former state Rep. Clarke Tucker, D-Little Rock arrived with his family to file for state Senate District 32.

Tucker was his party's nominee for Hill's congressional seat in 2018, a race Tucker lost by about 6 percentage points. Speaking briefly with a reporter, Tucker said lingering frustrations with Washington politics and the debate over returning the Little Rock School District to local control had fueled his desire to return to the Legislature.

"We feel like the last election cycle hasn't even ended," Tucker said "There's just a lot of political activity in Little Rock, which there ought to be, and that has people really fired up for the 2020 elections."

Republican Bob Thomas has said he would run against Tucker for the open seat, which has leaned Democratic in recent elections.

In the Arkansas Delta, former Rep. Mark McElroy of Tillar filed Wednesday as a Republican for his old House district, the 11th, which he lost to Dermott Democrat Don Glover a year ago in the general election.

House District 11 includes Chicot County and parts of Ashley and Desha counties. McElroy had represented the district as a Democrat, before switching to an independent during his reelection campaign. Glover said Wednesday that he plans to file for reelection.

The candidates who filed Wednesday also include nine for circuit judge and four for district judge.

Judicial races are nonpartisan. The judicial general election is March 3, which also is the date of the Democratic and Republican primaries. The general election is Nov. 3.

Information for this article was contributed by Michael R. Wickline of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

Photo by Thomas Metthe
State Rep. DeAnn Vaught (right), R-Horatio, goes over her paperwork Wednesday with Raynetta Hansberry of the secretary of state’s office while filing for reelection at the state Capitol.

A Section on 11/07/2019

Print Headline: Final congressman files for reelection at state Capitol

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