SPRINGDALE -- Springdale, Tontitown and rural parts of northern Washington County get to choose between Democratic nominee Lisa Parks of Tontitown and state Rep. Clint Penzo, R-Springdale, in the state Senate District 31 race.
For some district residents, this will be their second state Senate election this year in which they see Parks on their ballots. A special election took place Feb. 8 to fill out the remainder of the term of Sen. Lance Eads, R-Springdale. Eads resigned Oct. 28 to take a job with a lobbying firm.
Parks announced for the vacancy and won the special Democratic primary.
Sen. Colby Fulfer, R-Springdale, won that February special election. He defeated Parks, who came within 34 votes of winning out of 4,030 votes cast. Fulfer decided against running for reelection. Both Parks and Penzo announced for the regular election. Penzo defeated two opponents without a runoff in the May 24 Republican primary.
The state redrew district lines and renumbered them after the U.S. census in 2020. District 31 includes northern Washington County from west of Tontitown to Friendship Road in the east. The district goes far enough south to reach Howard Nickell Road in Fayetteville, taking in much of Johnson.
Early voting begins Oct. 24. Election day is Nov. 8. There are 35 seats in the state Senate. Senators normally serve four-year terms and receive a base salary of $44,357.
Parents and children in the district and throughout Arkansas need more prekindergarten education opportunities and health care, Parks said.
"Children need food and a secure place to set their heads down at night," she said.
Those needs will soon become more pressing since Arkansas has one of the strictest abortion laws in the nation, she said. The law is now fully in effect after a U.S. Supreme Court decision earlier this year.
The state law makes no exception for rape or incest.
"Most Arkansans do not want our law to be this extreme," she said.
Voters need a lawmaker who will concentrate on practical needs, Parks said. The state holds a $1.6 billion budget surplus while teachers are underpaid, transportation needs are neglected and some go hungry, she said. State government is too focused on tax breaks for wealthy Arkansans and building more prison space, she said.
District 31 is "beautifully diverse," Parks said. "It's growing, and people there want their voices elevated and heard," she said.
District 31 constituents want their government to be involved where it is needed to protect safety, health, education and encourage economic growth, but not to interfere in personal matters, Penzo said.
"People should vote for me because I am a legislator who listens to their voices, who votes their values and works hard every day to make Arkansas stronger," Penzo said.
"In short, they want a legislator who makes sure we have an efficient government that is fair and unobstructive to their daily lives," he said.
"My biggest priority would be to focus on education and workforce development to ensure that our citizens are having the best opportunities in both school and the workplace," Penzo said. "This can happen with robust public, private and home-school options. I want to make sure that all those options have an opportunity to flourish in Arkansas."
"I've voted to balance our budget, cut taxes, support workforce opportunities for all our residents, expand health care access and more during my six years in the House of Representatives," Penzo said.
Parks has campaigned all year, in effect, running in this campaign and the special election. She expects that will help in the general election. Penzo said he isn't convinced Parks' previous campaign will matter.
"General elections bring out more people and are generally more representative of the entire district," he said.
State Senate, District 31
Lisa Parks (D)
Residency: Tontitown, 18 years
Education: Law degree from the University of Arkansas; business degree from the University of Arkansas at Monticello.
Political experience: Unsuccessful run for Washington County juvenile judge in 2014; unsuccessful run for state Senate in 2022 special election.
Clint Penzo (R)
Residency: Springdale; lifetime resident of the district
Education: Bachelor’s degree in geological and earth sciences from the University of Arkansas; associate degree in physical therapy, Northwest Arkansas Community College, Bentonville
Political experience: Tontitown City Council, 2013-2014; state House, 2017 to present