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Lance Penfield, a Bryant real estate agent and former chairman of the Saline Memorial Hospital Board, announced Friday his plan to run for the state House of Representatives in the district held for four terms by Rep. Andy Davis, R-Little Rock.

Penfield, 55, is the first 2020 candidate in District 31, which stretches from the outermost portions of the west Little Rock suburbs to include parts of the cities of Alexander and Bryant. He's running as a Republican; the district has gone reliably Republican in recent elections.

Davis, who was first elected to the House in 2012, announced last month that he would not seek another term.

Throughout his four-term tenure, Davis rose in the ranks of House leadership to chair the Rules Committee, before losing a run at the speaker's gavel in 2018.

Earlier this year, Davis successfully shepherded the governor's 2,000-page government reorganization bill through the state Legislature.

In a news release announcing his candidacy, Penfield described himself as conservative, and said that his campaign would focus on education, infrastructure and job recruitment.

Penfield said he had yet to take a position on the state's private-option Medicaid expansion program, which uses Medicaid funds to provide health insurance to about 250,000 low-income Arkansans.

Continued funding for the program has become an annual debate for the Legislature, with conservative Republicans often raising concerns about the cost.

"I plan to get some of that out later," Penfield said of his policy positions, adding that he wants more time to educate himself on the specifics of the program, which is also known as Arkansas Works.

Penfield touted his service on the Bryant Planning Commission, saying he greenlit roadway and other infrastructure projects for the area. Asked if he supported the Legislature's proposal to voters to permanently extend the state's 0.5% sales tax for highways, Penfield offered a tentative "yes."

The permanent sales tax, which would raise $300 million a year for road projects, is set to go before voters in the November 2020 general election.

"I'm for lower taxes," Penfield said, before adding, "I support a tax if it has a specific need."

In his candidate announcement, Penfield said he opposed abortion and supported the Second Amendment. He clarified, however, that he has "no problem with more restrictive background checks" on gun purchases. He said he would not support limits on the types of firearms people may possess.

Penfield may end up having competition in the Republican primary. Bob Porto, the co-chairman of Arkansas Term Limits, said Friday he is also considering running for the seat.

Davis, the current representative, said he has no plans to endorse any candidate.

The Democratic Party of Arkansas, which has run a candidate for District 31 in three of the past four elections, will try again in 2020, party spokesman Jacob Kauffman said.

Metro on 09/07/2019

Print Headline: Bryant real estate agent plans bid for state House

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