Rural community organizer Nick Cartwright is seeking the Democratic nomination for Arkansas' 2nd Congressional District in 2022, he announced Thursday.
Cartwright, 27, is a former member of the Rose Bud City Council and the immediate former chairman of the Democratic Party of White County.
In an interview Thursday, he said he was running "to fight for regular, everyday working-class people," drawing a contrast between his own background and U.S. Rep. French Hill, the Republican who has held the 2nd Congressional District seat since 2015.
"My family is working class, my parents are both veterans. We grew up in a rural town, not a lot of opportunity but they worked their tails off to give me and my sisters better opportunity," Cartwright said. "He's a millionaire banker who has been in office for five or six years now and doesn't really have a ton of major legislation to show for it, and I just feel like our communities deserve someone that's from the community that can represent their concerns."
Cartwright, who now lives in Romance, said his experience in organizing and advocacy with the Rural Community Alliance and the Arkansas Public Policy Panel allows him to speak to people in the district and "bring their issues to the table." He earned a master's degree in public administration from Arkansas State University in 2018.
Among Cartwright's top priorities if elected is establishing a living wage for workers. He said $15 an hour should be "the floor," and wages should be tied to the cost of living.
With regard to education, he supports universal pre-kindergarten, raising teacher pay and canceling student debt.
His platform also includes revitalizing rural communities with high speed internet, support for small businesses and affordable housing.
Cartwright's campaign video also mentions securing health care as a right to every American, promoting local investment, and combating climate change.
Hill spokesman Brian Lee said the campaign didn't have a comment on Cartwright entering the race or the statements he made about the congressman.
"The people of Central Arkansas sent him back with a resounding result," Lee said, adding that Hill is focused on "working for them and the people of the 2nd District."
Hill is a businessman from Little Rock.
Cartwright was the only publicly announced Democratic candidate for the seat as of Thursday. J. Eric Wilson, a 37-year-old executive at a veteran-owned small business supporting the defense sector who lives in Little Rock, said Thursday he was considering running for the nomination but had not made a final decision.
The 2nd Congressional District covers Pulaski, Saline, Perry, Conway, Faulkner, Van Buren and White counties. However, the state's congressional districts are to be redrawn this year by the Republican-majority Legislature.
Cartwright differs from Hill's Democratic opponents in recent years in that he lives outside of Pulaski County and hasn't served in the state Legislature. State Sen. Joyce Elliott, D-Little Rock, garnered less than 45% of the vote in 2020, and then-state Rep. Clarke Tucker, D-Little Rock, garnered about 46% in 2018. Tucker is now a member of the state Senate.
Cartwright said he sees some advantages to those differences, though he sees Elliott and Tucker as role models.
If successful, Cartwright will be the first nominee from outside the state's most populous county in several decades, according to his campaign.
The seat has been held by Republicans since 2010.
Cartwright acknowledged the difficulty of running as a Democrat in a deep-red state, but said the 2nd Congressional District is typically one of the more competitive races in Arkansas. Part of his campaign will focus on activating the tens of thousands of inactive or unregistered voters in the state, he said.