The Republican primary race for state House District 14 in central Arkansas will pit an incumbent who believes in limited government but sees a need to fix the state’s highways against a challenger who wants the state to do more to help its children.
Christia Jones, 46, will challenge incumbent state Rep. Roger Lynch, 67, at the polls May 22. Both are from Lonoke.
There is no Democratic challenger for the seat in District 14 — which includes portions of Lonoke, Pulaski, Jefferson, Arkansas, and Prairie counties — so the nominee elected in the May 22 primary will fill the spot.
Jones said she decided to run on the last day of campaign filing, March 1.*
“It’s been on my mind through the years,” Jones said. “I’ve always wanted to do something to better the safety of the children, so I talked it over with family and friends and just made the decision to do that this year.”
Jones earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology with a minor in business at Oral Roberts University in Oklahoma.
As a case worker for foster children for the state’s Division of Children and Family Services, Jones said more needs to be done to protect children, including tougher laws for parents of those taken into care.
“We’re getting five to six children out of the same family who were born different years and were born with the same issues, like drug-addicted children,” Jones said. “There’s no consequences to the actions that [the parents are] doing. You’ve got mothers steadily walking around every day like nothing ever happened.”
Funding increases are needed to provide more social workers and more mental health facilities to treat children who suffered abuse and neglect, Jones said.
There are 4,651 children in foster care, Department of Human Services spokesman Amy Webb said. About 375 children in the state are up for adoption. On average, the state’s case workers manage about 22.5 cases at one time, which exceeds the standard of about 15 cases per worker set by the Child Welfare League of America.
“They have a lot of different issues going on, and we’re going to have to incorporate laws to protect them,” Jones said.
Lynch, who is seeking his second term, earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and a master’s degree in operations management from the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville.
He said government, in certain instances, is necessary for the state to function smoothly, but he doesn’t believe “we ought to over govern.”
“I think there are some things that ought to be left up to the people to decide,” Lynch said. “When it comes to one person or a company taking advantage of other people and the other people have no defense against it, then, in some cases, government is necessary to make sure that my rights are protected.”
Lynch, who owns a heating and air business in Lonoke, spoke about roads, increasing the reading level of the state’s students and producing a trained workforce to attract industry to the state.
“We’ve got to do something about the roads,” Lynch said.
Over the next decade, the Arkansas Department of Transportation expects about $4.5 billion in revenue, but the agency projects $9.3 billion in road needs over the next decade.
Last year, after Gov. Asa Hutchinson said he would oppose any plan for tapping into general revenue, Department of Transportation Director Scott Bennett said a ballot measure to raise money for highways would likely be introduced in the 2019 legislative session.
Federal money is the largest source of revenue for highway funding at 80 percent, with the state matching 20 percent. The motor fuels tax is the largest revenue generator for the state Transportation Department.
Cities and counties in Arkansas receive 30 percent of every state transportation dollar, with the state retaining the remaining 70 percent.
“The roads are not going to fix themselves,” Lynch said. “It’s only going to get more expensive if they don’t do something about it in a more timely fashion.”
Jones said she is against the state’s version of Medicaid expansion, but believes everyone should have medical care.
“However, it should not be the government’s responsibility to pay for it for everyone,” Jones said. “According to my understanding, the original Medicaid plan covered the elderly, disabled and children. When that program was in operation it was expensive. When Obamacare [the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act] expanded the coverage it became even more expensive. Somebody has to pay for this coverage.”
Then-Gov. Mike Beebe authorized the expansion in 2013 to provide private health insurance for low-income Arkansans who make up to 138 percent of the poverty level. Last month, Hutchinson’s request was approved by President Donald Trump for a waiver to impose a work requirement on some of the 280,000 people enrolled in the program now called Arkansas Works.
As the work requirement is phased in, Jones said she believes people removed from the Medicaid rolls will be taken into a care system, whether by an employer or a different program.
“Steps need to be made to help people who are employable get jobs and be responsible for their own medical care,” Jones said.
Lynch said he supports the work requirement but is concerned it will leave “a lot of people in a bad position.”
“We will ease some people back into the economy through that program,” Lynch said, but he added that those who can’t work “need to be taken care of.”
Lynch’s son and daughter-in-law are expecting a baby boy in September.
“She came over to the house early in the pregnancy, at five or six weeks, and we’re listening to the heartbeat,” Lynch said. “How can you say that’s not a person?”
Still, Lynch said, if carrying a child to term is going to kill the mother, then the decision to abort or keep the baby should be the mother’s choice.
“No logical person is going to force the mother to carry a child to term if it’s going to cause the mother to lose her life,” Lynch said.
He added that he knows it is difficult when that choice has to be made.
“I thank the Lord that our children were born healthy and my wife was able to carry them to term,” Lynch said. “We never had to make those decisions, but some people do. I can’t make that decision for them. It’s got to be theirs.”
For Jones, there is no choice to make when it comes to abortion.
“I feel that no man or woman should have the right to choose to end the life of a child in spite of the situation. It is rare that a mother has to choose between herself and her baby,” Jones said. “When this does happen, she will have to deal with herself and the Creator.”
Jones is undecided about whether she supports the state’s new law legalizing medical marijuana and said the process to implement it should be lengthy.
The state’s Medical Marijuana Commission has met with legal challenges in its attempt to issue the state’s first licenses to grow medical cannabis.
“I think that if we do not have very well thought out and instituted laws the right to use marijuana medically will be extremely abused,” Jones said. “The implementation has been long and drawn out, but sometimes long and drawn out is better.”
Lynch said cannabis is an excellent alternative to other, more dangerous treatments for pain and other ailments.
“I have friends and family members who have chronic pain and they get the product anyway,” Lynch said. “It’s not a legal market, but they did it anyway.”
He’s in favor of it if “we can do a better job of controlling it and providing it for people who really need it.”
The licensing process, he said, is “pretty close to the way we need to be doing it.”
Lynch, who is a concealed-weapon carrier, said he hates that there is a need to carry a weapon on college campuses, but he supports Act 562 of 2017 — which allows people to take concealed weapons onto public university campuses and other public places if they take an extra eight hours of “enhanced” carry training.
“Had it been an option, some of these horrific acts that have taken place would’ve been stopped a lot quicker,” Lynch said of mass shootings in recent years.
He also fully supports the idea of school teachers carrying weapons in classes — an idea that has been put forth in response to school shootings — but only with more training.
“What happens when someone crashes open your door and starts shooting? How do you handle that?” Lynch said. “Our police officers and law enforcement, they have that training on how they would respond to that situation, and it’s not eight hours.”
Jones said the current concealed-weapons laws are working, but better guidelines and stricter enforcement are need to weed out those unqualified to carry.
“It seems as though a lot of guns are getting in the wrong hands of people. We are having college shootings, high school shootings and random shootings,” Jones said. “We need to put some type of protection plan or safety plan in place for innocent children, women and men and enforce it.”
*CORRECTION: The filing period for primary and nonpartisan judicial candidates ended March 1. The wrong date was given in a previous version of this article.
Print Headline: House 14 issues: Kids, road fixes; GOP race pits Lynch, Jones