5 Republicans face each other in the race for the Senate; 2 former foes among Ozarks District hopefuls
In the heart of Arkansas’ Ozarks, at least five Republicans are running for the new state Senate District 28 seat.
The race pits two former foes – State Senator Bob Ballinger of Oark and former State Senator Bryan King of Green Forest – as well as State Rep. Keith Slape of Compton, Bob Largent, chairman/CEO of Harrison Regional Chamber of Commerce, and Theodore Walker of Huntsville.
The official application period begins on Tuesday.
Primary elections will take place on May 24. The winner of the Republican primary election will face the winner of the Democratic primary in the November 8 general election.
So far, only one Democrat has announced his intention to run – Jim Wallace of Eureka Springs, artist and owner of Paradise Pottery.
District 28 extends from the Missouri state line south to the Arkansas River Valley. It includes the Ozark National Forest Lands, part of the Buffalo National River, and the towns of Huntsville and Harrison.
The district includes all of Carroll and Madison counties and parts of Boone, Franklin, Johnson and Newton counties.
White residents make up 85% of the Senate District’s population of 85,216, according to the state’s redistricting website.
Ballinger, 48, a lawyer, is considered the holder of the race. As of 2019, he represents the former Senate District 5, which included part of the same territory as the new Senate District.
28. The districts are redrawn every 10 years after the census.
King, 53, a cattle and poultry farmer, announced his candidacy on Friday. He and Ballinger faced off in the 2018 Senate race which Ballinger ultimately won by 374 votes.
“It was really unpleasant last time,” Ballinger said.
After six years in the state House of Representatives, King was elected in 2012 to the state Senate, representing what was then District 5.
In late 2017, King said he would not run for office, citing his family farm and his frustration with his party leaders in Little Rock.
Ballinger, who also spent six years in the House, had previously announced his intention to run for Senate District 5.
As the filing period approached in February 2018, King entered the Senate race, saying Ballinger had to face an opponent in the primary election.
Ballinger beat King by a narrow margin that year.
Ballinger won the general election, securing 67% of the general election vote against two challengers – a Democrat and a Libertarian.
Since then, Ballinger has been a leader among conservatives in the Senate.
Ballinger has said energy policy is one of his top issues, but most people know him as a leader on gun issues.
In a Jan. 24 press release announcing his candidacy for the District 28 Senate seat, Ballinger touted his record.
“I led the fight to expand our 2nd Amendment rights, and we earned recognition as the #1 most pro-life state in the nation,” he said in the statement. “But now, more than ever, we must stand strong in the face of the relentless attacks on Arkansas values and our way of life.” King, in his Friday press release, said it was time to “drain the political swamp.” “We’ve got a bunch of Republicans in Little Rock posing as conservatives, and it’s time to call a spade a spade,” King said.
According to the press release, “King has a long history of resisting the establishment as he conducted audits of state government corruption, exposing fraud even by members of his own political party.” “To beat the machine, you have to race against the machine,” King said. “If we are serious about getting out of control spending, waste and fraud seriously, then as Conservatives we must be prepared to stand up to these bogus Conservatives in our own party.” King said Friday he was referring in the press release to lawmakers voting on things in which they have a financial stake.
Slape, 56, was elected in 2018 to serve as the state representative for House District 83.
Prior to that, he served 12 years as Newton County Sheriff.
In this role, Slape survived a plot to kidnap his son and an 80 mph collision with an elk on the Beech Creek Bridge on Arkansas 21 in Boxley Valley.
“Apparently a blue light is like a bug zapper for an elk,” he said of the hypnotized animal.
Much of the legislation Slape sponsored in the House concerned law enforcement.
He co-sponsored a bill that became Law 946 of 2021, which barred parole for convicted felons in possession of a firearm.
If elected to the Senate, Slape said he would work to strengthen laws to keep violent offenders in jail. He said the state’s sentencing guidelines need to be reworked.
“The whole range needs to be redone,” he said.
Slape said changes need to be made to reduce recidivism and get those released from prison back into the workforce.
Slape said he will also work to ensure better salaries and pension benefits for public school teachers.
Slape said he will work with city and county authorities, as well as rural fire departments, to meet their needs.
“Anything that makes their life easier will also make the state legislator’s life a lot easier,” Slape said.
Largent, 75, who announced his candidacy on January 10, said he had no intention of running for office.
Largent said some people at the church and at the grocery store started encouraging him to run for the District 28 Senate seat. At first, he thought it was a joke. But after some thought, Largent decided to get into the race.
Largent said a group of business leaders and elected officials — mostly from Boone County — met in a room in the House during the redistricting process last year.
The group had identified seven issues important to the area that would become District 28 – tourism, manufacturing and agriculture-based businesses, retail, health care, law enforcement, transportation, and education.
When he began to review Ballinger’s record with respect to the above seven issues, Largent said he found it lacking.
Largent said the majority of Ballinger’s legislation “reeks of headlines from elsewhere – [Critical Race Theory], second amendment rights, abortion. “I am more focused on our needs today and in the immediate future: jobs, agriculture and tourism,” he said.
Largent said he is aware of these other issues.
“I’m as conservative as it gets,” he said. “I am very pro-life. I have my concealed carry license, although I usually don’t do it to go to work. “Critical race theory is divisive rhetoric and radical teaching that distracts from the core mission of our public schools,” Largent said. “If elected, I will not let radical critical race theorists peddle their anti-American propaganda in our classrooms.” Born and raised in Spring-dale, Largent graduated from the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville and joined the US Air Force in 1968, according to a press release announcing his candidacy.
Over the next 24 and a half years, Largent served in numerous staff and command assignments, according to the statement. Largent received a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Oklahoma in 1982 and graduated from the Air War College in 1989.
In December 1992, he retired with the rank of colonel.
Since 1993, Largent “has worked closely with leaders of global for-profit and nonprofit organizations to help them streamline operations, save money, improve decision-making, and leverage insights. latest technology in video communications,” according to the release.
He became President/CEO of the Harrison Regional Chamber of Commerce in March 2019.
Last summer, Largent said he would step down from the chamber in 2023.
Theodore “Ted” Walker, 55, said he was a combat veteran in Desert Storm from 1990 to 1991 and in the Iraq War from 2008 to 2009. Walker said he reached the rank of sergeant- post major before choosing to leave the military after 38 years in order to stand for election.
“During my career, I have found myself side by side with leaders of all kinds,” Walker said in a press release. “Great leaders who always put others first and always work to improve the situation of those they lead and toxic leaders who have always felt that they were the most important person and that all that was not was always someone else’s fault.
“For as long as I can remember, I have been in the role of a servant leader. I have known the pains of poverty, the pains of bullying in school and the difficulties of growing up in a toxic environment. I have endured the pain of loss and experienced the joy of reward because I feel God has given me more than I deserve I have exceeded all expectations to success because I learned how to bring people together for a common goal and refused to listen to naysayers telling me to give up. … “I feel like this country is being torn apart for personal or political gain and endangering what that I and so many others like me have fought to preserve our freedom,” Walker said in the press release. “I have seen with my own eyes what socialism and communism do to nations and I do not don’t want this for my children or your children. I believe that current state and federal politicians lack the true understanding and empathy needed to represent their constituents with respect and true loyalty.
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