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One of the first Democrats to announce a 2020 run for the Arkansas House of Representatives on Monday launched a challenge against an incumbent Republican in a suburban district of west Little Rock.

With a video posted to her website, Ashley Hudson, 40, an attorney, announced her campaign to unseat state Rep. Jim Sorvillo, R-Little Rock.

Sorvillo, 72, who is in the advertising business, is a three-term House member who has beaten a Democratic challenger in each of his elections. He confirmed Monday that he plans to run for re-election next year in House District 32.

In the campaign video featuring her husband and four children, Hudson said she "hoped for a representative from our district who is engaged and ready to do the work."

"I don't feel as if he's taken any positions on anything," Hudson said in a phone call with the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. "It appears that he tries to fly below the radar."

Sorvillo disagreed and cited examples of bills he supported.

Hudson said Sorvillo lacked a clear record on key issues, including a 2019 bill that gave pay raises to public school teachers earning the state's minimum salary. Hudson said she supported the legislation.

House Bill 1145 passed in both chambers without any dissent, but Sorvillo was one of nine House lawmakers who did not cast a vote.

Sorvillo said he supported the bill, but may have stepped outside the chamber during the vote.

He said he does not believe that his record indicates that he skips votes or votes "present" more often than other lawmakers.

Hudson also said she supports a return of local control to the Little Rock School District. Her children are enrolled in the district, her website says. The district is run by the state instead of a school board because some schools did poorly academically.

Sorvillo said he supports a return to local control for the Little Rock district "with the condition" that the district addresses the achievement issues that led to its state takeover. Earlier this year, Sorvillo sponsored successful legislation that will allow the school district to elect two additional school board members if it is returned to local control.

Sorvillo has championed legislation aimed at imposing stricter penalties for "puppy mills," or dog breeding facilities that house animals in poor conditions, as well as other animal-welfare related bills. Most of those bills have been defeated by fellow House Republicans.

"Nationally, Arkansas has a black eye because of the abuse of animals," Sorvillo said, adding that he plans to propose new bills aimed at animal cruelty if re-elected.

While Hudson said she "commends" Sorvillo for his support of animal welfare initiatives, other issues such as health care and support for Arkansas' Medicaid expansion program have fallen by the wayside while Sorvillo has served in the House.

In 2017, Sorvillo voted for legislation to require that recipients of the state's Medicaid expansion program work, volunteer or report other doing activities in order to keep their health care coverage.

The work requirement resulted in more than 18,000 people being kicked off the health care rolls before a federal judge struck down the requirement earlier this year. Sorvillo said he would continue to support Medicaid expansion even if the work requirement is not reinstated on appeals.

Hudson said she opposes the work requirement "as written."

District 32 encompasses much of west Little Rock, including portions of the Chenal Valley, Rock Creek and Woodlands Edge neighborhoods.

Metro on 08/15/2019

Print Headline: Lawyer declares she'll seek seat in state House

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