The race for District 10 of the Arkansas House of Representatives pits a political newcomer against a veteran politician in Tuesday’s general election.
Republican Charles Roberts of Rison, who has never held political office, is challenging Democrat and current Jefferson County Judge Mike Holcomb for the redrawn district seat, which includes parts of Jefferson, Lincoln, Cleveland, Desha and Drew counties.
“I’ve been county judge of a Class C county so I’ve had a lot of exposure and have had to deal with a lot of issues,” said Holcomb, who faced two opponents in the Democratic primary in May and defeated Dorothy Hall in a run-off to win his party’s nomination.
“I’m running on my experience,” Holcomb said. “My opponent has no experience other than running a small business. I’m asking people to look at our records. They’re like resumes. Lay them side by side like you were looking for someone to hire which you are actually doing. You’re hiring someone to represent you in the legislature.”
Holcomb said that he had served as county judge for six years, and because of that, was familiar with many of the current state elected officials, including the governor and attorney general, as well as members of the legislature.
As far as major issues during the campaign, Holcomb said taxes are at the top of the list, primarily because “a lot of special interest groups from out of state are making a big deal about them.
“Arkansas is one of only four states that has a balanced budget or budget surplus and why do we need people from other states, who have had to ask for help from the federal government try to tell us what we need to do,” Holcomb said.
In particular, he mentioned the severance tax, which Holcomb said is “lower than surrounding states,” and the cigarette tax, “which is a voluntary tax that goes to fund trauma centers.
“Governor Beebe has cut the grocery tax twice and that’s resulted in a saving of three-quarters of a billion dollars for Arkansas families,” Holcomb said. “People are trying to connect Arkansas politics to federal politics and it’s become a real party issue. You’ve got to be from here to understand here.”
If elected, Holcomb said one of his top priorities would be to see that “Southeast Arkansas gets its fair share when it comes to tax dollars.
“It seems like a lot of the money has been going to North Arkansas and I want to try and see that our area gets the money it needs for highways, public safety and education,” he said.
Republican Roberts said he decided to seek the office because he “wanted to be involved directly in county and state government” and decided to run as a Republican “because they reflect my values.”
“The Democratic Party’s national platforms views do not reflect the views of most of the people of Southeast Arkansas,” Roberts said.
He said Arkansas has become more conservative and described himself as “very conservative.”
“I signed a pledge not to support tax increases for two years and if there has to be a tax increase, then another tax should go down so the increase is revenue neutral,” Roberts said. “Americans and the people of Arkansas are paying enough taxes.
“We need to find ways to use our money better, more efficiently, and with more transparency,” he said. “Elected officials represent the people and they should be willing to disclose how they voted on any issues, particularly on taxes.”
Roberts said Southeast Arkansas has lost population between 2000 and 2010.
“We need jobs. We need to improve the economy and one way to do that is to reform the state income tax. We have one of the highest state income taxes in the country and I would work to eliminate it, but if we can’t do that, at least make it more fair for everyone,” he said.
“We need to create a climate that invites manufacturers to invest their money here and work to create good paying jobs,” Roberts said.
He said that campaign mailers claiming he was “recruited by out of state interests to run for office” were untrue.
Roberts said he had been endorsed by the National Rifle Association and “that’s important because Southeast Arkansas is the second largest deer kill area in the state.”
“This is the most important election that is ever going to happen here,” Roberts said. “It’s important to establish a conservative majority in the state legislature and I feel good about our chances for doing that,” Roberts said.