Bruce Westerman believes his experience and policy decisions will persuade voters in the state's 4th Congressional District to elect him to another term in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Westerman, a Republican from Hot Springs, faces Democratic candidate John White of Stephens and Libertarian candidate Gregory Maxwell of Dover in the Nov. 8 election. Early voting begins today.
Westerman, 54, is in his fourth term and said he is running for reelection because he believes he still has a lot of work to do.
"I am heavily invested in doing what is right for this country, and I have an opportunity for leadership in the House, so I am excited for what the future can hold," he said.
Westerman said he is bullish on rural Arkansas and believes the state will see a turnaround in those areas soon. Arkansas' 4th District includes southwestern Arkansas and extends into Northwest Arkansas and part of south-central Arkansas.
"The rural communities of Arkansas have the resources the rest of the country and the world needs. Eventually there is going to be jobs around demand for those resources," he said. "We got great timber resources in the 4th District and fertile farm lands, and one thing Arkansas is blessed with is water. So I think Arkansas needs to do a better job of taking care of those resources that we have and they can provide long-term economic benefits in the future."
White, 57, said he decided the best way to ensure a better future for the next generation was to run for office.
"I decided I am just mad as hell and I am not going to take it anymore," the disabled veteran said.
White said the number one thing he will do if elected is ensure the federal government follows the Constitution and that he would prefer to see the federal government stay out of local policies.
"I want to make sure the states are given their power back," he said. "When it comes to local policies, the federal government shouldn't have a say in it."
During an Arkansas PBS debate last week, White made a number of comments that led the Democratic Party of Arkansas to release a statement distancing itself from the candidate's comments.
Much of the discussion in the Oct. 17 debate centered on the Jan. 6 riot in Washington, D.C., and controversy surrounding the 2020 presidential election. White said during the debate that he believed the 2020 presidential election was stolen and that he didn't believe Democratic President Joe Biden received more than 81 million votes, the most ever cast for a U.S. presidential election candidate.
White also said the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol wasn't a riot, and that issues such as masks, vaccines, women competing in men's sports and transgender issues are all things the government uses to divide the people.
Shortly after the debate's conclusion the state Democratic Party released a statement, attributed to party chairman Grant Tennille, that said numerous statements made by White during the debate were inconsistent with the party's positions and that the party did not endorse his comments.
Maxwell, 59, said during the debate that he wants to give voters an option other than just the Democratic or Republican parties.
"It's about reaching across the aisle, and sometimes it's about not saying anything," said Maxwell, a writer. "It's all about communication and talking to each other."
The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reached out to Maxwell multiple times requesting an interview for this article but received no response.
All three candidates said they would like to see an end to the divisiveness in American politics.
Maxwell said people aren't going to agree on everything, but a good start would be showing love to one another.
"To get people to see the other side, you got to do it with love and a hand out, not a stick and stone," Maxwell said during an the debate. "Love conquers all. It's a simple equation."
Westerman said closing the divide starts with having an issue that impacts both sides. He cited as an example the bi-partisan support he received with his bill to save sequoia trees.
"If you have the right issue and facts are behind you, then you can get bipartisan support in Congress," he said.
White said the government and mainstream media are responsible for much of the divisiveness.
"Every night we hear about somebody doing something that will trigger someone," he said. "Everybody needs to stop and calm down. Get less laws and more common sense and less hate."
Westerman said he believes legalizing marijuana is a negative and that time will tell how bad it can get.
"It has been proven to be a gateway drug," Westerman said. "I ask myself what are the benefits of legalizing pot, and I can't come up with one. Some people want to make it a tax revenue issue, and I think that is a very bad argument."
Westerman said marijuana legalization will damage Arkansas' workforce and economy.
"I didn't think I would even have to think about this in my lifetime when I was growing up, [that] someone would actually want to make pot legal to smoke and argue the benefits with a straight face," he said.
Maxwell said he supports legalizing marijuana and taxing it, and said he supports Biden's efforts to pardon those convicted of marijuana possession under federal law.
"Every once and awhile a squirrel gets a nut," Maxwell said during the debate. "Honestly, I think what he did is commendable and should be followed by more states to relieve the pressure on the prison system."
White said he is fine with people smoking marijuana as long as they are productive members of society.
"As long as you are not sitting on a couch eating Oreos, then I have no problem," White said. "Smoking weed is a lot better than drinking a whole lot of whiskey. Show up to work and do your job and everything should be fine."