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Two in state House facing GOP runoffs

Incumbents tout experience as challengers urge new blood in Districts 2, 52 by Stephen Simpson | June 14, 2022 at 4:52 a.m.
Supporters of a candidate cavort across the street from a polling place in Little Rock's Hillcrest neighborhood Tuesday afternoon, March 3, 2020. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/John Sykes Jr.)

As runoff elections get underway, a pair of incumbents are hoping their experience in office separates them from their opponents.

In the Arkansas House, three incumbents lost their seats in the primary election and two others are now fighting to keep theirs in the June 21 runoff. Early voting starts today.

State Rep. Marsh Davis, R-Cherokee Village, will be in a runoff election with Trey Steimel, an insurance agent from Pocahontas. The winner of the runoff will face Libertarian Teresa Norman in the general election for House District 2.

"My goal is to make sure my supporters get back out and vote," Davis, 57, said. "We plan to remind them multiple times to make sure they cast their ballot in the runoff."

In the race for the House District 52 seat, Rep. Marcus Richmond, R-Gravelly, is in a runoff with Mike Jones. The winner of the runoff will face independent John Wayne Catlett in November.

"Well I think when you consider redistricting it actually shifted the center of gravity of my district all the way over to the Dardanelle area so that is a pretty significant population shift," Richmond, 65, said. "This election was like running for an open seat."


Davis, whose first term in the House was in 2019, said he wasn't surprised that his race went into a runoff.

"Anytime there are three or more candidates in a race, there is always an above average chance it's going to a runoff," he said.

Davis said his campaign is hopeful they will be able to make a clean sweep when it comes to the runoff.

"We are pushing our supporters to vote with a goal of winning all three counties," he said.

Davis said he believes his experience will matter to voters when it comes to the upcoming runoff.

"With the Biden Administration pushing their leftist agenda, now more than ever it's important we have experienced legislators at the State Capitol who know how to push back," he said.

Steimel, 47, said he wants voters to know that he will bring back local representation and accessibility to the House seat.

"[Davis] is not engaged in our local communities when he is not in office in Little Rock," he said. "When you aren't in Little Rock for sessions and committee meetings then you need to be at quorum courts and city council meetings to find out what the folks need from you and that is not what is happening right now."

Steimel said he carried a 2-to-1 advantage in votes in Randolph County and that this was with him getting into the race late. The Arkansas Secretary of State's website shows that Steimel carried Randolph County with 1,167 votes compared to 442 by Davis.

"I wasn't able to spread my message to the other two counties," he said. "My plan is to attack those counties and try to garner those votes."

Steimel said he and the other GOP candidate, Hazelle Whited, had a similar message and he is hopeful he can gain some of her votes.

"We are gaining traction with some of her voters," he said. "We had the same message of making sure our voice isn't lost in Little Rock."

Steimel said he has reached out to Whited but he isn't sure if she will formally endorse him or not.

"We have talked before at community events and on the campaign trail and I reached out to her to commend her on a hard fought campaign," he said. "I am not sure if she is in the position to endorse me or anything yet. That is for her to say. I believe her voters are looking for that change as well."

Davis said he wants voters to know that their voice is important to him.

"Please take time to vote in the Republican runoff and have a say in who your state representative will be," he said.


Richmond, who is facing off against Jones for House District 52, which includes Scott County, two-thirds of Yell County and part of southern Sebastian County, said he is prepared to take on the challenge of getting his supporters back out to vote.

"You have all this built up to the primary and then poof you got a runoff," he said. "Now, voters think, 'Well, we are kind of tired of this.' Getting your folks to turn back out is always tough."

Richmond, whose first term in the House began in 2015, said during the runoff he is making sure he is reaching out to not only those who voted for him but also those who voted for the other candidate in the race, Greg Bland.

"I need to show those who voted for Bland that I am the better choice and again show the people who voted for Jones why they should reconsider that vote," he said.

Richmond said he doesn't know if Bland, the other GOP candidate in the race, will endorse him, but he knows that he won't support his opponent.

"I am giving Greg some time to heal and then we will talk again," he said.

Jones is a farmer and rancher for 13 Cattle Co. in Pope and Yell counties, as well as the president of J & J Farm and Equipment in Dardanelle.

He previously has said one of his main goals should he be elected would be to facilitate more vocational education programs such as Future Farmers of America for children and young adults in the district. He argued such programs will impart the skills necessary to create a skilled labor pool that, in turn, will inspire companies to set up shop there.

Jones, 52, said he was a little bit surprised the election went to a runoff, but he is ready to campaign once again.

"We felt really good about the campaign and we felt that our strategy went good and we were getting a lot of positive feedback, but being new to the politics I was a little bit surprised by it," he said. "Right now I think we are doing a good job trying catch up with this runoff."

Jones said this time around they are going to a more old school way of campaigning.

"We are going heavy duty knocking on doors," he said. "We are doing some serious door to door campaigning and trying to see every constituent that we can. We are not as heavy on events this time."

Jones, 52, has said he believes district residents want less government overreach and taxes, well-paying jobs and good health care, as well as care for senior citizens and veterans. Other major issues include a lack of rural water systems in Yell and southern Scott counties and a lack of Wi-Fi access in rural communities.

"I think the main takeaway is that I want to go to Little Rock and bring some common sense," he said. "Not really being involved in politics I think has helped me. I am going in there fresh and the people want to see someone with a fresh mind and fresh ideas in that seat."

Richmond said all voters have to do is compare his background to Jones's to know who is the better choice.

"He has no record, but I do," he said. "He doesn't have a plan, but I do."

Richmond, who serves as an assistant speaker pro tempore and was a previous House majority leader, said he wants to remind voters how critical it is to have a unifying person in the House seat.

"Giving up that leadership might lead to more tribalism in the House," he said. "It can create a Northwest Arkansas tribe, a Little Rock tribe and things like that. People who want to see us divided are all for it."

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