Arkansas State Sen. Clint Penzo, R-Springdale, filed Monday to challenge U.S. Rep. Steve Womack, a Republican from Rogers, in the March 5 primary.
Penzo said he is running for the Republican nomination in Arkansas' 3rd congressional district because "I had numerous people reach out to me and ask me to primary Womack."
"Most people are saying to me they feel like he's been in D.C. too long [and] he's lost touch touch with our community," Penzo said of Womack. "I think that's probably the biggest reason people are disappointed. It is no specific instance."
Penzo said he decided to take on Womack in the primary, even though Republican U.S. Sens. John Boozman and Tom Cotton and Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders have voiced support for Womack, because "I think they'd committed prior to knowing I was considering it."
Asked why he believes he has a shot at ousting Womack, Penzo said that "... I have had so many people reach out to me and express their displeasure. I wouldn't run if I didn't think I could win."
Penzo said he has done "a tremendous amount of thinking" about challenging Womack in the past two or three weeks.
"I talked to my wife and the rest of my family and had a long conversation with my priest and prayed about it and I think this is the direction God wants me to travel," he said. "People have always asked me to primary [Womack] since I have been down here, and I wasn't ready. But I think the time is right now."
Penzo, a real estate agent, has served in the Arkansas Senate since January of this year and served in the Arkansas House of Representatives from 2017-2023. He is up for reelection to the Arkansas Senate in 2026.
Womack, in a written statement, said that elections are about choices and are a contest of ideas.
"That's the genius of America," he said. "I'm proud to live in a country where the people get to decide. I will always do what I think is right, take care of my district, and be focused on our national security."
Womack has served in the U.S. House of Representatives since 2011. He is currently a senior member of the House Appropriations Committee, where he is chairman of the Financial Services and General Government Subcommittee and also sits on the Defense and Transportation, Housing and Urban Development subcommittees. He formerly served as chairman of the House Budget Committee.
Prior to his election to Congress, Womack served as mayor of Rogers for 12 years. He also served in the Arkansas Army National Guard for more than 30 years, retiring at the rank of colonel in 2009.
Caitlin Draper of Fayetteville filed as a Democrat in the 3rd congressional district last week.
In other candidate filings Monday, Arkansas Supreme Court Justices Rhonda Wood and Karen Baker and attorney and former state Rep. Jay Martin filed to run for Arkansas Supreme Court chief justice in 2024.
Wood, Baker and Martin joined Arkansas Supreme Court Justice Barbara Webb, who filed last week, in the chief justice race. The chief justice post is currently held by Dan Kemp, who isn't seeking reelection in 2024.
Monday was the sixth day for the filing period for state and federal offices in Arkansas. The filing period for state and federal offices ends Tuesday at noon. A complete list of filings can be found at candidates.arkansas.gov.
Arkansas will hold its primary on March 5, which is Super Tuesday. The runoff will be April 2, and the general election will be Nov. 5.
Also Monday, four Democratic candidates for president and a Republican candidate for president filed to run in the March 5 primary.
In the race for Arkansas Supreme Court chief justice, Wood said she believes that she is the best candidate for the post because "I think it is a time of great change in the judiciary and the world in general and so it matters that there is a chief justice with the right judicial experience and the right leadership experience within the judiciary."
She said she has served on the state Supreme Court since 2015, on the state Court of Appeals from 2013-2014 and as a circuit judge from 2007-2013, and she has served in leadership roles within the three levels of judiciary. She previously was an attorney for eight years.
Wood was elected to Position 7 on the state Supreme Court in 2014 and reelected to the post in 2022.
The seven justices on the Supreme Court are elected in statewide, nonpartisan elections.
Baker has served on the state Supreme Court since 2011. Baker was reelected to Position 6 on the high court in 2014 and again in 2022.
She served on the state Court of Appeals from 2001-2010 and as a 20th judicial district circuit, chancery and juvenile judge from 1995-1996 and 20th judicial district circuit and chancery judge from 1997-2000.
She was a public defender for Van Buren and Searcy counties from 1989-1995 and was in private law practice from 1987-1995.
Baker could not be reached for comment at her office on Monday afternoon.
Martin, who has been an attorney for about 26 years, served as a Democrat in the Arkansas House of Representatives from 2003-2007 and made unsuccessful bids for the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor in 2006 and governor in 2022.
He described himself as a fairly independent person who is a consensus builder.
Martin said he's running to be chief justice because he wants to protect the constitution, to expand access to the courts, to make sure that rural and urban courts have the staff and resources to have safe and good courts, and to use all the burgeoning technology in the court.
In other races Monday, U.S. Rep. Dean Phillips of Excelsior, Minn., Cenk Uygur of Los Angeles, Frankie Lozada of Valley Stream, N. Y., and Armando Perez-Serrato of Orange, Calif., filed to run for the Democratic nomination for president in Arkansas, while David Stuckenberg of Tampa, Fla., filed for the Republican presidential nomination in Arkansas.
Lozada said Monday that although Democratic President Joe Biden "has done great things, I think there are other better alternatives and I think folks need the reassurance that there are other candidates out here."
Other presidential candidates who have filed in Arkansas to run for president so far include three other Democrats -- Biden, Stephel Lyons of Maryland and Marianne Williamson of New Hamphire -- and eight other Republicans -- former President Donald Trump; former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, who is also the former governor of South Carolina; Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis; former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson; former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie; North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum; entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy; and businessman Ryan Binkley of McKinney, Texas.
Monday's filings bring the total number of candidates for state and federal offices who have filed during the first six days of the filing period to 257.
That's in addition to 78 judicial candidates who qualified by submitting a petition with a sufficient number of signatures of registered voters, according to the secretary of state's office.
So far, 128 Republicans and 88 Democrats have filed for state and federal offices, and two independent candidates have filed for state office, according to the secretary of state's office. A total of 117 nonpartisan judicial candidates have filed thus far.
For the General Assembly, all 100 House seats and 18 Senate seats will be on the ballot in 2024. Currently Republicans hold 82 of the state House of Representatives' 100 seats, with Democrats holding the other 18. Republicans currently hold 29 of the state Senate's 35 seats, with Democrats holding six.
Maureen Skinner of Conway, who is a therapist, filed Monday to run for the Democratic nomination in Senate District 17. State Sen. Mark Johnson, R-Ferndale, filed last week to seek reelection in Senate District 17.
In 2018, Skinner lost to then-Republican state Sen. Jason Rapert of Conway.
Skinner said she believes she has a better shot at winning in 2024.