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Three candidates compete in Arkansas House race for new majority Hispanic district

by Doug Thompson | September 27, 2022 at 5:05 a.m.
DeAnna Hodges, (left) Republican candidate, Steven Stilling, Libertarian candidate and Diana Gonzales Worthen, Democrat candidate for State House, District 9.

SPRINGDALE -- The state took special care to create a majority-Hispanic House district in Springdale when it redrew legislative boundaries last year. Three candidates seek that District 9 seat in the Nov. 8 general election.

District voters will choose between Republican nominee DeAnna Hodges, Democratic candidate Diana Gonzales Worthen and Libertarian contender Steven Stilling. State legislative races have no runoff elections, so whoever gets the most votes in the race wins.

The district stretches from the Washington-Benton county line in the north to Don Tyson Parkway in the south. It touches Thompson Street in the west and Sonora 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 for the Nov. 8 general election.

Hodges said residents of the district, whatever their ethnic origin, want to build their own lives.

"Everyone is on the same page, whether Marshallese, Hispanic or anything else," Hodges said. "Everyone here wants the American dream."

"I feel I can represent every person in Springdale," Hodges said. "I can give them a chance to prosper, the freedom to prosper. This is a hardworking community that wants to keep more of their money in their pockets."

Hodges would work to protect small businesses if elected, she said, but also pointed out much of the district is rural while it also contains much of downtown Springdale, including industry. There's a variety of interests and concerns to be represented, she said.

"They all want less taxes and less government regulation," Hodges said of constituents. They also want a good, safe place to raise their families and enjoy the community's diversity, she said. She called the July 30 "Stroll the Atolls" event by the Arkansas Coalition of the Marshallese "wonderful."

Worthen has lived in what is now District 9 for 26 years, she said, and has seen all the changes there in that time. She knows the district and its people well, she said.

"I know the gaps that need filling," such as good quality jobs and mental health services, she said. Too many district residents are not engaged politically and need a legislator who listens, she said. "There are too many voices unheard," she said.

"People here are not afraid to work," Worthen said. "We're multilingual and multicultural. We can compete globally. Wherever in the world you want to compete in business, somebody here will come from there."

"I want to pull people together where we can share the different perspectives we have from the community," Worthen said.

The district's children need more prekindergarten education opportunities, Worthen said. The district's working families need greater access to affordable child care.

"The family can't progress without it," she said.

The district and the state need more teachers, Worthen said. People with talent from District 9 can move up into those jobs if afforded the opportunity, she said. Worthen directs Project REACH at the University of Arkansas, a program to increase the number of bilingual teachers to address the need for them that developed during the increased immigration of speakers of Spanish and other languages to Northwest Arkansas that began in the 1990s.

Stilling said the Founding Fathers followed the right principle when they divided government into three branches, making it difficult for any one to gain dominance over the other two. The politics of the country, though, erred "massively," he said, by having only two major political parties. The country needs three parties also, instead of two competing to see which one can take all the power, he said.

"A two-party system forces people to choose between the lesser of two evils," Stilling said. "That's why the last three presidents are idiots." He paused. "Make it four."

People risked their lives to vote in Afghanistan, where people had their thumbs dyed while voting as an election verification method. They understood they risked being killed by extremists for voting but did it anyway, even though they knew who would win -- but they had a choice. That left a lasting impression on him, Stilling said. He decided running for office as a third-party candidate would be a good way to continue serving the country after leaving the Army, he said.

Stilling decided to join the Libertarian Party, he said, because they appear to have the best chance of being a viable third party.

"What people in this district really want is for government to keep out of our business," he said.

State House, District 9

DeAnna Hodges (R)

Age: 50

Residency: Springdale, 20 years

Occupation: Jewelry consultant and real estate

Education: Attended Ouachita Baptist University, Arkadelphia

Political Experience: None

Diana Gonzales Worthen (D)

Age: 61

Residency: Washington County, in the district 26 years

Occupation: Educator, University of Arkansas

Education: Doctorate in curriculum and instruction, University of Arkansas; master’s in science education, University of Texas at Dallas; bachelor’s in biology, University of Houston

Political experience: Unsuccessful races for state House, 2006, and Senate, 2012

Steven Stilling (L)

Age: 49

Residency: Springdale, five years

Occupation: Retired sergeant from U.S. Army

Education: Attended Oklahoma State University, Okmulgee campus

Political Experience: None


Print Headline: 3 hopefuls contend for House District 9


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