Five Democratic candidates are seeking to replace former state Rep. Charles Blake in representing House District 36, which stretches southeast from downtown along the Arkansas River.
Blake resigned in May to serve as chief of staff for Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott Jr. Voters can choose a candidate at a special election on Aug. 6.
KUAR sat down with each of the candidates and asked the same questions on what they felt were the main issues in the district, and what their plans were for the legislature.
Philip Hood spoke with KUAR News about his candidacy. You can find selected responses below and hear the interview with Hood above.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
"I am born and raised in Little Rock. A graduate of Hall High. After graduation I attended Grambling State University in Louisiana. I moved back to Little Rock and started working in the air transportation with Southwest Airlines. I worked there and while I was there I got involved with the labor union. Worked and became president of Razorback Localized 2907. Worked there and I was president of Southwest Airlines/Northwest Airlines’ TWA with about a thousand members in my local."
"In early 2000, I opened an insurance agency. Had Hood and Associates, Insurance and Investments and I was there for roughly twelve years. In 2007, I accepted an appointment with Arkansas Workers Compensation Commission as a commissioner that represented the interest of the injured worker. It was there I made sure that anyone who had legitimate injuries with their employer got the benefits that they desired. And I think that the majority of what I've done thus far has been helping others and when the position came up for the District 36 House seat, it was befitting that I continue that life’s work."
How do you feel that your skills, background and experiences qualify you to represent District 36?
"One thing that I have realized is that a lot of the people in my district or in any district just want to be heard. When they have problems, they wanna make sure that someone is there listening. I am a trained mediator, which one thing I [have] found is that communication is not a lot of talking. It has a lot to do with listening and being able to listen to a person and find out what [their] needs are and I think that is probably the biggest qualifier. The skills that I've gained over the years that have allowed me to build relationships, which is a key component in working with others, but listening to what is needed is probably the biggest thing."
What do you believe are some of the greatest strengths and challenges of your district?
"The number one resource in District 36 is the human resource. I think that the people in the district are going to be…what we want to accentuate. Some of the challenges are economic development. We have industry there, but there's a disconnect between the industry and the people who live in the district and I think that that's something that I want to bring together. In any industry, any community, you want to make sure that the economic part is reaching the residents of the community. If it's not the community is going to suffer."
What are some ideas to face those challenges and to bolster those strengths?
"Creating a dialogue first between the industry and the district. With… the unemployment in the industry, in the community I think there's enough industry there. We have the airport, we have the river port....There’s a lot of industry in the area. It’s just bringing the community into that industry and I think that [it’s] just being able to create the conversation and try and find out how we can work together. And if there is a job need…let's reach out to the community first and see if there is training that’s necessary. Let’s train the community for any employment needs that are there."
How would you accomplish your goals in a majority Republican legislature and coming from a district not in the mainstream of political power?
"I think that relationships are [going to] be key. You know that we, the Democratic Party is the minority. So it’s going to be important to reach across, to get help. I always say that the half of something is more than all of nothing. So if we are able to…find areas that we can work together, if we can get something, it will benefit the district and ultimately the state."
What is an issue that you find emerging in Arkansas as a whole that has yet to be addressed in the legislature? What are you planning to do to address this challenge?
"It's a lot that that needs to be done. I think we don’t address enough of the issues, but four areas that [I] want to concentrate on...One, it would be safe communities. I think that everyone wants an opportunity to live in an area without having to worry about crime or being attacked at home. Home is a safe haven. I think that everyone wants an opportunity for quality education and that is key with any community. You want either your children or your grandchildren to have an opportunity to get an education and move forward and become productive citizens."
"Healthcare is huge. No one should have to refinance your house to have healthcare concerns taken care of...or balance billing from a surgery or a health need, and that we actually can' afford. And if you don't have insurance, that’s going to plague you for rest of your days. And after you've completed working, everybody wants an opportunity to retire. You don’t want to work until you die. You want to try to enjoy some of the golden years and not have to worry about where income’s coming from."
Are there aspects within the legislature itself that you would like to change or challenge?
"I think…the unique part about Arkansas is... that [it] is a state that...it takes care of itself. There are national trends that we've become victims of. I think that when something happens on either side of us, it inevitably comes into the state. Someone gets an idea that, ‘That worked over there, let's bring [it] in to Arkansas’ and it doesn’t necessarily fit. So, I think that those are going to be the challenges. If there's something that would help the state…we can entertain it, but if it's something that's not going to benefit the state at all I don't think we need to bring it in and address it."
What would you say is your signature issue or an issue that needs more attention from lawmakers?
"Signature is… living wages and working families. I think we underappreciate working families and marginalized communities. And I think that one way to address that, a unique perspective that I have is I have been a small business owner, so I understand that small businesses have needs they have control overhead and they need a workforce that can further their business."