Womack’s 3rd District campaign has $2.3M on hand; challenger Penzo reports nearly $44,000

Clint Penzo (left), U.S. Rep. Steve Womack
Clint Penzo (left), U.S. Rep. Steve Womack

WASHINGTON -- U.S. Rep. Steve Womack, R-Ark., is operating a reelection effort with a significant financial advantage over state Sen. Clint Penzo, R-Springdale, leading up to next month's primary election.

Womack's congressional campaign received nearly $390,000 in contributions during the final quarter of 2023, according to a Federal Election Commission campaign finance report, with political action committees and other organizations putting forward more than half of that amount. The committee ended the year with $2.3 million in its reserves.

Penzo, a real estate agent with experience in both chambers of the Arkansas Legislature, reported raising $57,482.36 since launching his congressional campaign in November, primarily consisting of individual contributions. His campaign's financial documents stated the campaign has $43,929.72 in cash on hand as of Dec. 31, 2023.

The financial report additionally noted $30,000 in debts and obligations related to the filing fee for Arkansas' congressional candidates.

Penzo, who joined the state Senate in January 2023, launched his congressional campaign in November, contending Womack is not conservative enough to represent the 3rd Congressional District, which consists of counties in Northwest Arkansas.

Penzo's announcement followed a testy October on Capitol Hill highlighted by the House of Representatives' struggle to find a new speaker. After a Republican bloc successfully ousted Kevin McCarthy from the post, Womack backed House Majority Leader Steve Scalise, R-La., as the chamber's next leader. Scalise, however, dropped his bid after it became evident House Republicans could not unite around the selection.

Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, who lost to Scalise in the House Republican Conference, emerged as the next Republican choice. Womack refused to support Jordan, voting for Scalise on three occasions on what the congressman from Rogers described as "a matter of principle." Jordan eventually dropped his bid.

Womack and the House Republican Conference eventually united around Rep. Mike Johnson, R-La., as the speaker, helping bring the three-week standstill to an end.

Amid the murmurs of Penzo challenging Womack, the congressman -- who at one point had to refute reports about retiring from public office -- received endorsements from Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders; the state's two U.S. senators, fellow Republicans John Boozman of Rogers and Tom Cotton of Little Rock; and Republican U.S. Rep. Rick Crawford of Jonesboro.

The remaining members of Arkansas' congressional delegation -- Reps. French Hill of Little Rock and Bruce Westerman of Hot Springs -- announced their support of Womack as Penzo hit the campaign trail. The Womack campaign has touted the endorsements of Johnson, Scalise, and various Arkansas leaders and groups.

According to the Womack campaign's finance report, the committee received $205,300 of its contributions during the most recent quarter -- more than 52.7% of the $389,124.18 in contributions during this period -- from political committees, including $5,000 donations from PACs associated with Boozman, Cotton, Hill, Scalise and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.

"It's the honor of my lifetime to serve the people of Arkansas' Third District," Womack told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in a statement. "I'm humbled and encouraged to see the confidence from those I proudly represent. I greatly appreciate the strong support for my reelection."

Penzo did not return an inquiry for this story as of Thursday evening.

Fayetteville social worker Caitlin Draper is running unopposed in the Democratic primary for the 3rd District seat. Her campaign reported $25,119.60 in contributions with $14,769.74 in the bank at the end of 2023.

In the 1st District, Crawford -- who entered the House with Womack in January 2011 -- reported $64,682.50 in contributions during the most recent quarter and $780,856.79 cash on hand at year's end.

Rodney Govens, a Democrat challenging Crawford in this year's general 1st District contest, did not submit financial information to the FEC.

In the 2nd District, Hill's campaign reported $523,882.98 in contributions and $1,612,210.27 in its reserves. The campaign for Marcus Jones, a Democrat seeking the 2nd District seat, brought in $49,612.04 during the previous quarter and had $28,092.07 on hand entering the new year.

In the 4th District, Westerman, a member of the House Republican leadership team through his chairmanship over the House Natural Resources Committee, raised $235,354.51 for his campaign during the most recent quarter. The campaign ended 2023 with $2,385,553.96 in its coffers. Democrat challenger Risie Howard did not submit any financial reports to the FEC.

Boozman and Cotton will not be on the ballot in this year's general election. Cotton's senatorial term will expire in January 2027, and Boozman's current term runs through January 2029.

The Boozman for Arkansas campaign raised $85,010.36 in the most recent quarter and entered 2024 with $991,162.67 on hand, while the Cotton for Senate campaign received $181,945.22 in contributions with $7,584,644.26 in the bank.