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Womack gets late push

Takes GOP 3rd District runoff over Bledsoe by Bill Bowden | June 9, 2010 at 4:12 a.m.
Rogers Mayor Steve Womack talks with a supporter during the election watch party at the Embassy Suites in Rogers Tuesday evening. With all precincts reporting, Womack won the Republican nomination with 18,290 votes (52 percent). His opponent Cecile Bledsoe had 17,048 (48 percent).

— Rogers Mayor Steve Womack won a tight runoff late Tuesday for the Republican nomination in the 3rd District congressional race and declared victory.

“Obviously, I still have some work to do to earn the support and the confidence of the people who did not vote for me tonight,” Womack said. “It’s been a grueling campaign in a compressedtime frame.”

Unofficial results, with all 528 precincts reportingaccording to The Associated Press, were:

Steve Womack . . . . . . . . . 18,290

Cecile Bledsoe . . . . . . . . . .17,048

“I want to congratulate Cecile and her team for just doing a spectacular job,” said Womack. “They made this thing a very difficult race in the runoff, and they should be proud of what they’ve accomplished. And we are proud to be the nominee.”

Throughout the evening,the two Republican candidates seeking John Boozman’s seat as congressman waited anxiously at their respective watch parties - Bledsoe at the Clarion Inn in Fayetteville and Womack at the Embassy Suites in Rogers.

Since the May 18 primary election, they had been locked in a heated runoff battle that got more contentious by the day.

“It’s foolhardy to say anybody is up or down,” Womack said as the early results showed Bledsoe slightly ahead. “You have to look at what vote is in and what vote is expected to come in.”

Many of the 42 precincts that hadn’t reported numbers until late Tuesday were in Benton County, where Womack hoped to make a strong showing, but it’s Bledsoe’s home turf, too. Those late precincts gave Womack a win by four percentage points, 52-48.

Bledsoe couldn’t be reached for comment.

Womack, 53, has served as mayor of Rogers for 11 years. He’s a retired colonel who has served for 30 years with the Arkansas Army National Guard.

Bledsoe, 65, is the first woman ever to seek the GOP nomination in the 3rd District. The former manager of a surgical clinic, Bledsoe served in the state House of Representatives from 1999-04 and as a state senator beginning in 2009.

Womack won the primary election with 31.2 percent of the vote. Bledsoe was secondwith 13.3 percent.

After the May 18 primary, which drew eight candidates, the two normally cordial Rogers residents took to the airwaves to criticize each other in television advertisements.

Bledsoe ran ads comparing Womack to President Barack Obama, a Democrat, saying they “agree on taxes.”

Womack countered with a TV spot stating that Bledsoe voted last year for tax increases on milk and tobacco.

Throughout her runoff campaign, Bledsoe tried to position herself as more conservative than Womack.

Womack had broken from the pack of candidates by not promising to oppose any tax increase that might come up and for stating that the federal health care bill can’t be repealed while Democrats control Congress and the White House.

“All these Republican candidates make it sound like ‘Youelect me, and this is what’s going to happen,’” Womack said last week. “You are one of 435 people, and right now the Democrats control Congress. We’re going to have to get control of Congress and maybe the White House to make that happen, and I hope it does. ... Do I oppose the legislative agenda of President Obama? Yes I do.”

Bledsoe also criticized Womack for saying illegal aliens should be put on a “path to citizenship,” but the mayor said he was referring to legal immigrants who begin their path to citizenship from their country of origin.

Bledsoe was endorsed by three former candidates in the race - Gunner DeLay, Doug Matayo and Steve Lowry - as well as former Congressmen Asa Hutchinson, former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin and several current and former Arkansas legislators.

DeLay of Fort Smith finished third by a mere 176 votes behind Bledsoe. He considered asking for a recount but decided to endorse his opponent instead and campaign for her in the Arkansas River Valley.

Womack was endorsed by Kurt Maddox, a Gravette businessman and former candidate in the primary.

The Rogers mayor said Bledsoe’s camp had used intimidation to try to get Maddox to endorse her.

The winner will face Fayetteville attorney David Whitaker in the Nov. 2 general election. Whitaker was unopposed in the Democratic primary.

Front Section, Pages 1 on 06/09/2010

Print Headline: Womack gets late push


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