GREENWOOD -- Political newcomer Wade Dunn faces Lee Johnson in the May 24 Republican primary for the state House District 47 nomination.
District 47 includes portions of Sebastian and Crawford counties, according to a map on the Arkansas Board of Apportionment website.
The Republican primary winner will be the only name on the ballot for the seat in the Nov. 8 general election.
Johnson has served in the state House representing what was previously District 75 since 2018.
Johnson said his experience and knowledge of being a state representative is what makes him the best candidate for the position. He said one of his goals if elected is to improve access to physical and mental health services for all Arkansans.
"I think we need to continue to look at telehealth options and how we grow that access," he said. "Suicide rates in Arkansas have gone up 43% since the year 2000, so I think it's important that we also try to look at how we address behavioral health issues in Arkansas, and we'd like to try to be a part in improving that as well."
This is Dunn's first time running for office.
Dunn said his platform is firmly rooted in following God's word and the Constitution. He said he'll be a real conservative, and he doesn't intend to pander to individual issues if elected.
"I am a person that believes that we have to hold government accountable," Dunn said. "Government is of the people, so the government has to honor the people instead of the people honoring the government. We have to spend the taxpayer's money wisely. I've said many, many times that Arkansas does not have a revenue problem, we have an accountability problem. We have a management problem. We're spending way more money than we need to."
Both Dunn and Johnson said there are several large issues facing state government.
Dunn pointed to taxation, government spending and how to handle future pandemics, noting he doesn't think mandates should be made by an individual such as the governor.
Johnson mentioned health care, education, workforce development, workforce retention and how the state can grow the economy without burdening taxpayers with increased taxes.
The Legislature and Gov. Asa Hutchinson authorized a $6.02 billion state general revenue budget for fiscal 2023. Hutchinson said in February the Department of Finance and Administration conservatively estimated the state will have a $500 million surplus at the end of fiscal 2022 on June 30.
Dunn said that money should go back to the residents.
"Government does not need to be holding on to excessive money that they collected from taxpayers," he said. "We don't have to raise money, we have to quit spending money. Spend money smartly, spend money wisely and spend money where it needs to be spent."
Johnson said the government should examine why there's a surplus and keep a certain amount in reserve in case of an economic disaster.
"I think we've done a good job of shoring up those reserves," he said. "I think now we've got to start looking at is there a way for us to operate more efficiently so that we don't necessarily have to continue to have a surplus, but we're operating in a situation where our expenditures are meeting our income as a state."
Early voting for the Republican primary election begins Monday.
Arkansas state representatives serve two-year terms and have an annual salary of $44,356.
Arkansas House District 47
Wade Dunn (R)
Residency: 58-year resident of Greenwood
Occupation: Self-employed operating convenience stores
Education: Attended, Westark Community College, now University of Arkansas at Fort Smith
Political Experience: None
Lee Johnson (R)
Residency: 17-year resident of Greenwood
Occupation: Physician, Baptist Health in Fort Smith and Van Buren
Education: M.D., University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences at Little Rock; bachelor of arts from Hendrix College
Political Experience: House of Representatives District 75 since 2018; Greenwood City Council, 2008 to 2018