Two Rogers entrepreneurs are competing in the state House District 15 Democratic primary, hoping to unseat two-term Republican incumbent Rep. John Carr.
Stephanie Funk and Erin Underhill will appear on the ballot in the March 5 primary. Early voting begins Feb. 20. Carr is unopposed in the Republican primary.
District 15 reaches Hudson Road on the north and Mills Lane in the south. Most of its eastern border runs along South Eighth Street, with part of the district's northeastern corner stretching farther to North Second Street. The western border reaches South Bellview Road.
Rogers tends to elect Republicans. Funk is not running as a Republican because she is not one, she said. She was active in the Young Democrats in college and was in Washington, D.C., where she heard then-U.S. Sen. Dale Bumpers, D-Ark., give his final speech in the Senate. Bumpers and others knew how to work across party lines and how that led to success in politics and governing, she said.
"If I'm going to represent this district, I'm going to have to be a heck of a moderate Democrat," Funk said. The district consists largely of small business owners. She described District 15 as one of the most densely populated and diverse districts in Northwest Arkansas. The district contains many children, making education and school safety two of the leading priorities there, she said. There is also a high population of elderly people, she said.
"The district doesn't need a rubber stamp" for partisan Republican issues, Funk said. The same could be said for the Legislature as a whole, she said. "I want to help restore balance by helping to break the super-majority" of Republicans in the Legislature, she said.
"People in my district work hard and don't have a lot," Funk said. Finding housing they can afford is a growing concern and a concern for businesses who need workers to live there, she said.
"Nobody's going to come here to wait tables from Neosho, [Mo.]," she said.
Funk was a foster child growing up who is now one of the first venture capitalist-funded businesswomen in the state, she said. "I know how to create something out of nothing," she said.
Underhill said he was a Republican until 2021, saying the party went too far with what he called "the evangelical stuff."
"I won't tell you you can't be gay and I won't take your guns either," Underhill said.
"People have rights but there's so much being taken to extremes," Underhill said. For instance, he supports background checks for gun purchases and "red flag" laws to allow temporary, court-ordered confiscation of firearms from someone deemed to be a risk to themselves or to others, he said.
"I was cleaning a customer's house and he showed me the hole in the back of their couch," Underhill said. "One of the guns left around the house fell over and went off. I can't make a law or dictate that people lock their guns up, but I can't make a law saying you can't be gay either."
He cited Republican party opposition to abortion even when fetuses are severely deformed and not viable, opposition to covid vaccines and acceptance of conspiracy theories. "You can't be an ally for equal rights and vote Republican anymore," he said.
"All they want is peace and for the government to not get too involved in their life," Underhill said of District 15 residents.
"I don't mix politics, religion and business," Underhill said. Anyone who wants his service in his cleaning business can get it, and he would do the same as a legislator, he said.
"If you think I'm woke, I guess I am woke because I don't think you should be able to buy a machine gun or a shotgun without a background check," Underhill said.
House members serve two-year terms and make $44,357 a year, plus expenses.
Residency: Rogers, for two years. A Northwest Arkansas resident for 15
Employment: Investor and Realtor
Education: Bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville
Political Experience: None
Residency: Rogers for seven years
Employment: Founder and owner of a cleaning service
Education: Graduate of the Arkansas Career Training Institute
Political Experience: None