story and info compiled by Aric Mitchell
Editor’s note: Of the 32 legislative districts in the Fort Smith and Northwest Arkansas areas, 15 are contested in the Nov. 6 general election. During the next few days, The City Wire will profile each contested race. Link here for information on the House and Senate districts in the two regions, and the associated candidates.
The race for Arkansas House of Representatives District 88 pits candidates Randy Alexander (R) and Edwin Sugg (D) against each other in a contest that for Alexander, will be about what can be done "to improve economic conditions in Arkansas so that good jobs are available to all of our citizens seeking work."
Alexander believes the state "must initiate changes to our tax codes, regulatory environment and litigation environment that encourage economic growth" and "not provide barriers to growth." Alexander also questioned Gov. Mike Beebe on education.
"Our governor frequently states Arkansas ranks 5th in education nationally," Alexander writes. "This data is taken from a report that focuses on a variety of different aspects of education. Arkansas does rank high in issues like policy formation, facilities and teacher quality, but we earn a 'D' in the most important aspect of the same report: K-12 Achievement."
These responses were part of a survey conducted by The City Wire in anticipation of the 15 contested state legislative races. Candidates were asked about the top issues in their district, legislative goals for the next term and why each believes they are the right candidate for the position. They were also asked to answer “Yes,” “No,” or “Don’t Know” to a range of issues likely to surface in the 2013-2014 General Assembly.
Alexander's full, unedited responses are below. Sugg chose not to participate.
• What are the top issues in your district?
The top issue is the same as in all state districts: what can we do to improve economic conditions in Arkansas so that good jobs are available to all of our citizens seeking work? A second important issue is education. Although most public schools in Northwest Arkansas provide a quality education, this is not true in many parts of our state. This has a negative impact on the entire state, including my district.
• What are your legislative goals for your next term if elected?
I want to make Arkansas a more business friendly environment. National studies show Arkansas ranks lower than all adjacent states in providing an environment attractive to new businesses. We must initiate changes to our tax codes, regulatory environment and litigation environment that encourage economic growth, not provide barriers to growth.
I want to provide parents choice to select the best educational environment for their child. We should create a system empowering parents to direct some of the current educational expenditures per child, to follow their child to the school parent believe will best meets their child’s need. Addressing our education shortfall is the civil rights issue of our time. The quality of a child’s education should not be dependent on their zip code or parent’s discretionary income.
Our governor frequently states Arkansas ranks 5th in education nationally. This data is taken from a report that focuses on a variety of different aspects of education. Arkansas does rank high in issues like policy formation, facilities and teacher quality, but we earn a “D” in the most important aspect of the same report: K-12 Achievement.
Fewer than one in three Arkansas students are proficient in basic math and literacy. About one in four freshmen will not graduate high school. Only 18% of high school seniors are ready for college level work in English, math, reading and science. This failure negatively impacts our business climate. Businesses that need skilled workers will continue to locate in other states, and parents considering a job in Arkansas will be reluctant to relocate to a state where the quality of their child’s education is in jeopardy.
Our education problem is systemic; it is not the result of inadequate funding or poor teachers. We have to change the system to achieve better results.
• Why do you think you are the best person to represent your district?
I have a strong desire to understand, assess and develop solutions to the problems our citizens are facing. I am a results oriented problem solver who is not afraid to challenge the status quo. I will listen to my constituents to insure I fully understand their issues and suggestions for positive improvement. My background and experience testifies my ability to address complex issues get things accomplished.
YES-NO-DON’T KNOW RESPONSE - Alexander
Each candidate was asked to provide a yes, no or don’t know response to the following four questions. Anything other than one of the three responses was not accepted.
• If budget conditions allow, would you vote for renewal of the Quick Action Closing Fund?
• Are you for the Nov. 6 ballot item that would raise the Arkansas sales tax rate by a half-cent (0.5%) to fund more than $1.8 billion in Arkansas road improvements during the next 10 years?
• Would you support tougher ethics laws for Arkansas Legislators?
• Would you support expansion of Arkansas’s Medicaid program using federal dollars as part of the new federal healthcare law?