BENTONVILLE -- The most contested legislative race in Northwest Arkansas is in its final stretch in Benton County's House District 13.
Republican Scott Richardson faces Democrat Jen Standerfer in the Nov. 8 general election. The race started with five candidates. Richardson won the June 21 runoff that followed a four-person Republican primary May 24. No other legislative race in Benton nor Washington counties had four candidates compete for a party nomination that had an opponent waiting in November.
This is Standerfer's first race and Richardson's third. Richardson came within 12 votes out of 1,880 cast of winning the 2018 Republican primary for House District 91. He tried again in the 2020 primary for the same House district but lost in a runoff.
The state redrew House district boundaries and renumbered them after the 2020 U.S. census. Population growth added two House districts to Benton County. Those new districts included House District 13.
District 13 includes parts of Bentonville, Rogers and Cave Springs. Southeast 14th Street in Bentonville lies along most of District 13's northern border. The district's southernmost border touches Rainbow Road, also in Bentonville. The district extends to Southwest Regional Airport Road on the west and North 24th Street in Rogers in the east.
State representatives serve two-year terms and receive a base salary of $44,357. There are 100 members of the state House. Early voting begins Oct. 24.
The Legislature needs more representatives who understand technology, Richardson said. Constituents in District 13 from the biggest businesses to families that cannot afford reliable internet service for their children need better worldwide web access, he said.
"There are kids in this district sitting in cafes doing their homework because they don't have Wi-Fi at home," he said of wireless internet connections.
"The challenge is we're headed toward certain levels of capacity now," Richardson said. "This is a very diverse district with farm land but also businesses, hospitals and schools. They all need advanced technology."
Technology is not the only area he has experience in, Richardson said. He is a former farm owner who understands the needs of farmers in the district and a longtime Bentonville resident who has seen the effect of growth, he said.
His three campaigns brought him into personal contact with many of the district's residents, Richardson said.
"Knocking on doors and talking to people has become my favorite part of this," he said.
Standerfer worked for four years at the Bureau of Legislative research, the Legislature's staff whose duties include drafting bills the lawmakers request, before returning to Northwest Arkansas for her private law practice. She saw how successful legislating works. What she sees now is not it, she said.
"We're letting the extremists run away with it," she said of state government. "We don't need to spend a dime of taxpayer money on the agenda of the right or the left."
The Legislature, with its one-party Republican supermajority, keeps trying to micromanage cities, counties and school boards, she said.
The Legislature needs to help Northwest Arkansas provide affordable housing as rents and home prices rise, she said. Her constituents and Arkansans in general want state government to efficiently provide for roads and public safety and to support schools.
"Good government is boring," she said.
"I am a small government girl," Standerfer said. "I want to remind the General Assembly as often as possible to know its place."
State House, District 13
Scott Richardson (R)
Residency: Bentonville, for nine years
Occupation: Director of technology for CEI Engineering Associates
Education: Master’s degree in information systems and a bachelor’s degree in computers and information systems, both from Arkansas Tech University in Russellville
Political experience: Unsuccessful bids for state House in 2018 and 2020
Jen Standerfer (D)
Residency: Bentonville for five years, grew up and lived in Rogers before that
Education: Law degree and bachelor’s degree in English literature, both from University of Arkansas, Fayetteville
Political experience: None