FAYETTEVILLE -- Lance Johnson and Sarah Hampton are vying for the District 1 seat on the Washington County Quorum Court.
The Quorum Court is the legislative body of county government and is composed of 15 members called justices of the peace, who are elected to two-year terms. Democrats currently hold four of the seats and Republicans hold 11.
Early voting starts Oct. 24. Election Day is Nov. 8.
Johnson, a Republican, touted his business background among his strengths as a candidate while Hampton, a Democrat, said she wants to be a voice for "people who know what it's like to be a regular person" and not a politician.
The two candidates split on the biggest issue currently facing Washington County, with Johnson saying he favors the plan to expand the county jail and Hampton opposing it.
The Quorum Court in July set a Nov. 8 special election to issue up to $113.5 million in bonds for a jail expansion and up to $28.5 million in bonds for a Juvenile Justice Center expansion project. The bonds would be paid for by a 0.25% sales tax that would expire when the bonds are paid.
Johnson said the jail has to be expanded to handle the county's growth.
"I'm happy with the way it's written, and I'm going to vote for it," Johnson said. "I'm never happy with a tax increase, but I think we've got to build up the jail to take in the people that need to be there."
Hampton said she opposes the sales tax increase, which she said would give Washington County one of the highest, if not the highest, county sales tax rates in Arkansas. There are alternatives to building a bigger jail, she said.
"We need to take a closer look at some of the recommendations from the 2019 study the county had done," she said. "There are better solutions to overcrowding in the jail than just building more space."
Hampton said she is also interested in seeing Washington County do more to provide and expand on public transportation.
"There is a huge need for public transportation," she said. "Ozark Transit is struggling with a lack of drivers and noncompetitive pay, and the Quorum Court has declined to add funding."
Johnson said his main interest on the Quorum Court has always been in the county budget process, which he said could be improved.
"I think we can always do it better than we do," he said. "We just have to continue working on the whole process."
Each justice of the peace represents a district of roughly equal population. Redistricting for justice of the peace seats took place late last year. District 1 includes parts of Fayetteville and Johnson, north of Van Asche Drive and west of College Avenue and parts of Springdale, west of Thompson Street and south of Shady Grove Road, and much of the northwest part of the county.
Washington County justices of the peace are paid $200 per meeting for Quorum Court and committee meetings they attend.
Washington County Quorum Court, District 1
Sarah Hampton (D)
Residency: In District 1 since June; lifelong resident of Washington County
Occupation: Tech support for Walmart
Education: Attended the University of Arkansas
Political Experience: None
Lance Johnson (R)
Residency: Springdale for 32 years
Occupation: Self-employed home builder
Education: Bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from Tri-State College in Indiana
Political Experience: Washington County Quorum Court, 2019 to present