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story.lead_photo.caption Celeste Williams

FAYETTEVILLE -- Celeste Williams, chairwoman of the Democratic Party of Benton County, will seek the Democratic nomination for the 3rd District congressional seat held by Rep. Steve Womack of Rogers.

Williams, 44, of Bella Vista will kick off her campaign tonight at Frisco Park in downtown Rogers, she said Tuesday.

"I am an eternal optimist," Williams said of her chances against the five-term incumbent Republican. "It will be an uphill climb, but a battle worth fighting."

Williams ran her first political race in 2018, challenging incumbent Rep. Austin McCollum, R-Bentonville, in the state House District 95 race. She was the first Democrat to run in that district since 2002. McCollum won with more than 65% of the vote.

Williams, a nurse practitioner in Centerton, also is a foster parent. These experiences bring her into contact with the problems both adults and children face in the region, she said.

"I am running for my kids and the youth of today," she said. "With all the problems we have, I can't look at my kids and not do something to try and fix things."

Womack has faced two Democrats before. David Whitaker of Fayetteville ran against Womack in 2010 and garnered less than 28% of the vote. That race was Womack's first run for Congress. He had been mayor of Rogers for 12 years.

Womack drew no major party opposition for his next three races. Josh Mahony of Fayetteville challenged him in 2018, getting more than 32% of the vote.

"The foundation of our government is the ability to choose among candidates and their ideas every two years," Womack said in reply to Williams' announcement.

"I'm anxious to have that conversation. I'm confident that 3rd District Arkansans will reject the socialist ideals of the Democrat Party. I'm confident that they don't want to give Nancy Pelosi another reliable vote. Those I represent prefer smaller government, lower taxes, the rule of law, a strong economy and support for our military and veterans. I am prepared to defend my work on these critical issues."

Pelosi, D-Calif., is House speaker.

Womack's record shows his priorities don't benefit most district residents, Williams said.

"He is not focused on the issues that affect the people in the district: affordable health care, affordable prescription medication, affordable college and good-paying jobs," she said.

There are no Democrats in Arkansas' congressional delegation. Of the five states with all-Republican delegations, Arkansas is the largest.

"We need to stop the partisan bickering, and I'm very collaborative by nature," Williams said. "I can be a better voice for the 3rd Congressional District because I represent its values more."

The district stretches like a horseshoe from south of Fort Smith in Sebastian County north to Washington and Benton counties, skirts the Missouri border through Carroll and Boone counties, reaches east of Yellville and plunges south through Newton County to take in Russellville in Pope County.

The shape of the district was settled by the state Legislature in a compromise that included Fort Smith, Northwest Arkansas, Harrison and Russellville -- all strongly Republican areas -- in the same district.

U.S. House members serve two-year terms and are paid $174,000 a year. No other candidates have announced for the district seat as of Tuesday.

Candidate filing for partisan offices begins at noon Nov. 4 and ends at noon Nov. 12. Party primaries are March 3. The general election is Nov. 3, 2020.

NW News on 08/14/2019

Print Headline: Democrat plans to challenge Womack

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