SPRINGDALE -- Two longtime Springdale residents are competing for the District 19 state House seat, each hoping to win political office for the first time.
Democratic nominee Paula Irwin faces Republican candidate Steve Unger. Irwin is in her first race while Unger is in his second one this year.
District 19 goes as far as Van Asche Drive in Fayetteville to the south and to Har-Ber Avenue in the north. It touches Via Campo Road on the west and stretches as far as Habberton Road 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. Election Day is Nov. 8.
"I have deep roots here," Irwin said of the district. "I'm right at home."
She spent her teaching career in the Springdale School District, she said.
"We do need some balance in our state Legislature," Irwin said. The large Republican majority in the House and Senate tends to give too much leeway to the right, she said.
"The majority of Arkansans are in the middle," she said. "They want good common sense in the Legislature, and I do think I bring that."
Irwin said she is worried about teachers leaving the profession or going to other states. The covid pandemic drove many teachers out of the field, she said. Every teacher who left a school meant more stress and work on the ones remaining, she said. Increasing pay is one aspect of attracting and retaining teachers, she said.
Other professions need more representation and recognition too, Irwin said.
She described the district's constituents as "hardworking, many of whom have retired. They want good schools, a clean environment and support for small business and our first responders" such as police and fire departments and ambulance services. They want a representative who looks out for seniors and veterans also, she said.
Unger made the Republican runoff for a special election for the District 7 state Senate seat in a four-person race that included a former state House member. He lost the Jan. 11 runoff but came within 75 votes of winner Colby Fulfer out of 1,769 ballots cast. That primary and runoff were Unger's political debut.
"I am going to deliver on increased access to vocation and technical training," Unger said. "I'm already working on this. My dream is to replicate the Don Tyson School of Innovation in the other three corners of the state and in Little Rock."
Arkansas in general and Northwest Arkansas in particular needs skilled workers, and the people who can learn those skills need good jobs, Unger said.
"The lack of a trained workforce has led to the hollowing-out of small-town America and small-town Arkansas. I believe this trend is being reversed, and I want to speed that reversal along," he said.
District 19 "has some of the wealthiest people in Springdale and some of the poorest," Unger said. "I intend to represent them all equally. I believe they would all say they want quality schools, quality police protection and safe streets.
"They want a state and a local government that does not spend their tax money frivolously and listens to their concerns," Unger said.
Paula Irwin (D)
Residency: Springdale since 1960; has lived in the area that is District 19 since 1973
Occupation: Retired music teacher
Education: Master’s and bachelor’s degrees in music education from the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville
Political experience: None
Steve Unger (R)
Residency: Springdale native
Occupation: Retired as a Navy captain and chaplain
Education: Bachelor’s degree in public administration from the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville; master of divinity degree from Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Mo.; master’s degree in military science from Marine Corps Command and Staff College in Quantico, Va.
Political experience: Unsuccessful bid for state Senate, special election in 2022