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Arkansas Lawmaker Launches Congressional Bid As Filing Ends

Kelly Connelly

An Arkansas state legislator announced a bid Tuesday to unseat a Republican congressman in 2020 as the filing period for next year's election came to a close.

Democratic state Sen. Joyce Elliott is the only Democrat who filed to run against Republican Rep. French Hill, who was first elected to the 2nd Congressional District in 2014.

Elliott said she believes the district, which includes Little Rock, could be competitive for Democrats.

"I recognize that things need to change, and I'm not one for whining about it and not stepping up to do what I need to do and not asking others to do what I won't do," Elliott said.

She was the party's nominee for the seat in 2010 but lost the general election to Republican Tim Griffin, who is now lieutenant governor, by about 20 percentage points.

Elliott has been a vocal advocate for returning Little Rock's schools, currently run by the state, to full local control. The district's teachers union, which was stripped of its collective bargaining rights, plans a one-day strike Thursday over the issue.

Hill won re-election last year, fending off a challenge from a cancer survivor who criticized the congressman for voting to repeal the federal health law. He has nearly $824,000 on hand for his re-election bid. His campaign said he looked forward to a "vigorous" campaign.

"It's a privilege and honor for Congressman Hill to work for all the citizens of central Arkansas and support sound economic policies that foster job growth and opportunity, a strong and resilient national defense and a healthier, happier and safer national community," said J.R. Davis, a spokesman for Hill's campaign.

Democrats are fielding candidates for three of the state's Republican-held U.S. House seats. Republican Rep. Rick Crawford, who represents east Arkansas' 1st Congressional District, does not have a Democratic challenger.

The filing period ended with ex-Rep. Mickey Gates, who had been expelled from the state House after pleading no contest for failing to pay state income taxes, not seeking re-election. The Republican had vowed to run after the House removed him.

Supreme Court Justice Jo Hart also did not file to run for re-election, setting up a potentially expensive and heated fight for her seat. Pulaski County Circuit Judge Morgan "Chip" Welch and Barbara Webb, chief administrative law judge for the Workers Compensation Commission, are running for her seat. Webb is the wife of state GOP Chairman Doyle Webb.

Arkansas' Supreme Court races in recent years have attracted heavy spending from outside conservative groups.

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