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A Camden native who recently returned to Arkansas after a career in the western U.S. announced Tuesday that he's running as a Democrat for south Arkansas' congressional seat.

William Hanson of Hot Springs said he would vie for the Democratic nomination for Arkansas' 4th Congressional District to challenge Republican incumbent Rep. Bruce Westerman, also of Hot Springs.

Hanson, a retired attorney and college professor, moved back to Arkansas earlier this year after retiring from Chabot College in Hayward, Calif., where he was an instructor and department chairman for the Administration of Justice program and director of the Law and Democracy program.

"I believe in the power and promise of collaboration and that we deserve leadership that is independent and courageous enough to speak the truth about needs of our state and nation," Hanson said in a campaign news release. "I have spent my career working as a lawyer, educator, and community organizer seeking to empower communities to control their own destiny. I believe that Arkansans are ready to work together to find sustainable solutions to the problems that confront us. This campaign will be a catalyst for that work."

Westerman, an engineer and the only member of Congress with a graduate degree in forestry, has represented the 4th District on Capitol Hill since 2015.

"It's an honor to serve the [4th Congressional District] and to represent the conservative views of my constituents," Westerman said in a statement released Tuesday evening. "I look forward to continuing my efforts in DC and will work hard to earn the right to continue representing the 4th District once again next November."

The former majority leader in the Arkansas House of Representatives won re-election in 2018, defeating Democrat Hayden Shamel with 66.7% of the vote. The next general election is in November 2020.

Westerman has filed a statement of candidacy with the Federal Election Commission. The congressman recently reported having more than $816,000 in the bank for his re-election campaign.

Raymond Redmond Jr. of Rison also has filed a statement of candidacy with the Federal Election Commission indicating he may run as a Democrat for the 4th District. Attempts to reach Redmond on Tuesday were unsuccessful.

Hanson said he has traced his family's lineage back to south Arkansas more than 150 years. Hanson graduated from Stephens High School, where he was valedictorian in 1972, according to his biography.

He attended the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville before volunteering for the U.S. Army. After serving in the Army, Hanson attended Henderson State University in Arkadelphia for a semester before moving to California to work for a veterans service organization.

He ultimately obtained a bachelor's degree from the University of California, Berkeley and a law degree from Columbia University School of Law, according to the biography.

Hanson said in a phone interview on Tuesday that he practiced law privately before clerking for the Colorado Supreme Court and working in the state attorney general's office.

He went on to teach at several colleges, including Gonzaga University, the John F. Kennedy School of Law and the University of Colorado School of Law. Teaching, Hanson said, provided a better schedule for being a parent.

Hanson said he initially planned to work on a project focused on civic engagement and voter turnout when he moved back to the Natural State. Then, he said, he was encouraged to run for office himself.

"You can't do voter mobilization without a good candidate or good issues," he said.

He said that the primary focus of his campaign would be civic engagement, and he pointed to the fact that only about half of Arkansas' registered voters turned out in 2018.

He said that he's interested in women's rights, health care and gun violence, among other policy issues. He said that he'd have more nuanced statements about his positions on certain issues on his website in the coming days.

"Civic engagement is number one because it's the key to all of them," he said.

He said Westerman seemed like a nice man. Hanson said he wouldn't run a negative campaign.

He said a Democrat has held the seat before, and there's no reason one can't win it again.

"I'm not running to be a placeholder," Hanson said. "I'm running to win."

Metro on 09/04/2019

Print Headline: Native back, sets eye on U.S. Rep. Bruce Westerman's seat

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