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Spencer Hawks in run for state Senate seat

Conway House member challenging Johnson in Republican primary by Rachel Herzog | November 12, 2021 at 3:30 a.m.

State Rep. Spencer Hawks, R-Conway, will mount a primary challenge to state Sen. Mark Johnson, R-Ferndale, having been drawn into Johnson's district by Arkansas' new redistricting plan.

Hawks, a real estate broker, announced he would run for the current state Senate District 35 in October. That seat is held by state Sen. Jason Rapert, R-Conway, who is running for lieutenant governor.

But new legislative district maps that the Arkansas Board of Apportionment accepted last month put Hawks in a newly drawn Senate District 17, which includes western Pulaski County and southwestern Faulkner County.

Hawks said he was not expecting to be put in the same district as Johnson, but said he is still running, having raised funds and garnered "quite a bit" of support.

"I'm still committed, for various reasons, to stay in the race," he said. "We've maintained all of our support, probably gained some as far as who's on board."

Hawks, who has served in the House since 2019, said various business people, community leaders, family and friends had asked him to run for state Senate for years. While he didn't intend to run against Johnson, he said he would be "a much better senator to represent their values."

He said he didn't want to single anyone out, but said the Senate is "a mess" and needs someone who isn't going to grandstand but will "put their head down and work for the people of Arkansas" and isn't focused on nationalizing issues.

Hawks said Johnson will be a formidable opponent, but he was focused on garnering grassroots support.

"It's not going to be a cakewalk," he said.

Johnson said he had always considered Hawks a friend but believed he would be successful in his reelection campaign. He said Hawks' challenge shows the strength of the Republican party in Arkansas.

"He has to make his own decision on that, certainly I respect that," Johnson said. "It's a free country."

Jacob Kauffman, political director for the Democratic Party of Arkansas, said there are Democrats who are interested in running for the seat, but none ready to announce or put their name out publicly as of Wednesday.


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