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2 Republicans say they intend to run for Arkansas Senate seats

by Michael R. Wickline, Rachel Herzog | January 12, 2022 at 1:00 a.m.

Two Republicans have announced this week they'll run for state Senate seats in north and south Arkansas.

Bob Largent, president and CEO of the Harrison Regional Chamber of Commerce, announced his bid for state Senate District 28 on Monday, becoming the third announced GOP candidate for the seat.

"I am running for State Senate because Arkansas can't afford another four years of career politicians. We need to focus on creating jobs in business and agriculture, workforce training, improving schools, and returning to our core conservative principles, like smaller government and personal freedoms," Largent said in a news release.

State Rep. Keith Slape, R-Compton, said last year he will run for that seat.

The incumbent, Sen. Bob Ballinger, R-Ozark, is seeking reelection in the district, which includes Carroll and Madison counties along with parts of Boone, Newton, Johnson and Franklin counties.

Largent, a political newcomer, said he had "no desire" to run for office, but in his last three years with the chamber of commerce, he has seen the impact of business and tourism on the region.

In a phone interview, Largent said he was personally disappointed that lawmakers representing that area have not focused on business, agriculture, tourism, education and workforce, which he said are key to the prosperity of people in the region.

He said he wants to focus on big, long-term issues.

"I don't intend to get pulled into a topic or a discussion or an issue that doesn't have far-reaching implications," Largent said.

Asked about having two primary challengers this year, Ballinger said, "It's their right to challenge incumbents."

"It's not my seat; it's the people of Arkansas' seat," he said. "The system is better when incumbents get challenged. This will give me real incentive to get out and meet the people."

Ballinger said his stances have angered moderate, left-leaning, business-focused groups.

He said the issues Largent likely wants to avoid "are the issues that are moving the people of Arkansas right now," such as opposing vaccine mandates and critical race theory.

Camden Republican Matt Stone on Tuesday announced his bid for the Senate District 2 seat that Sen. Trent Garner, R-El Dorado, said Monday he won't seek reelection to this year.

Stone, who is Garner's father-in-law, is a 60-year-old registered forester who has served as a commissioner to the Arkansas Forestry Division since 2018 and has been a small business owner for 33 years. He also served two years on the Camden City Council in the early 1990s and has served as co-chairman of the grassroots group United for the Community for the past decade.

He said in a written statement, "I will bring leadership in action to Little Rock by cutting your taxes, stopping big government mandates, and putting your children's education first."

The self-described conservative Republican said he believes in traditional American values and that the state's Medicaid expansion program "needs to be modified in some capacity." He said he didn't know how it needs to be modified.

Last month, the federal government approved a request from Gov. Asa Hutchinson's administration for a waiver to retool Arkansas' version of Medicaid expansion.

The program, previously called Arkansas Works, provides health care coverage to more than 300,000 low-income Arkansans -- people between 19 and 64 who earn up to 138% of the federal poverty level, which is $17,774 for a single person and $36,570 for a family of four.

The retooled program is called the Arkansas Health and Opportunity for Me program, or ARHOME, which started Jan. 1 and ends Dec. 31, 2026, under the waiver approved by the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Garner on Monday announced his support for Stone, calling him "a conservative leader who will put the people of Arkansas first."

Senate District 2 includes Calhoun, Dallas, Ouachita and Union counties and part of Grant County.

Print Headline: 2 Republicans say they intend to run for Arkansas Senate seats

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