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A second Republican, businessman Keith Brooks, added his name Wednesday to the growing GOP primary to replace state Rep. Andy Davis, R-Little Rock.

Brooks' official announcement joins him with radio producer R.J. Hawk in the Republican contest in House District 31, which includes parts of Pulaski and Saline counties. Rebecca Gwatney, the widow of former Arkansas Democratic Party Chairman Bill Gwatney, has also said she is "leaning toward" a Republican run.

The open seat, which Davis represented for four terms, has yet to draw any Democratic candidates.

In a short interview Wednesday, Brooks, 43, said his campaign would focus on educational issues and raising literacy scores. He said he was a supporter of both charter schools and voucher programs.

A father of three, Brooks said one of his children is diagnosed with dyslexia.

"We've kind of seen the gamut of challenges out there," he said.

If elected to the Legislature, Brooks said he would work to ensure that all schools have a designated reading specialist to work with students.

On the issue of the state's private-option Medicaid expansion program, which has divided Republicans in the Legislature, Brooks called the recent work requirement added to the program "a positive approach."

That requirement, however, has been placed on hold by the federal courts after causing about 18,000 people to be removed from the state's Medicaid rolls.

If the requirement is not reinstated, Brooks said he would "look into" whether he would support Medicaid expansion.

Hawk gave a similar noncommittal answer last month when asked whether he would support Medicaid expansion.

About 250,000 low-income Arkansans receive their health insurance through the Medicaid expansion program, also known as Arkansas Works.

Both Hawk and Brooks have praised Davis' work in the Legislature. On Wednesday, Brooks said he could not recall a vote Davis made that he disagreed with.

Brooks said he would rely on his personal narrative -- including his first job delivering newspapers, and later as a small-business owner -- to stand out in the Republican primary.

Brooks said he lives with his wife, Jenny, in the Ferndale area.

After Brooks announced his candidacy, Gwatney said Wednesday that she still remained undecided about entering the race. She said she would make up her mind around the time of the filing deadline in November.

Metro on 10/10/2019

Print Headline: Central Arkansas House race draws second GOP candidate


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